As we prepared this booklet, we heard over and over again from families who were deeply concerned about the direction their young adults' lives would take when they finished school. We also heard many encouraging stories about positive results that came from involved parents who collaborated with schools and providers, set expectations for their young adults, and supported them in the achievement of their goals. These families expressed tremendous pride in their sons and daughters who experienced success in different work situations.
John Anton, Chairperson of Mass Advocates Standing Strong (MASS), a self-advocacy organization for adults with disabilities, shares his personal experience of both the positive rewards of employment and the critical role that families play in making work a reality. "Having a job is fulfilling and gives you respect and independence. It is an important way to make a contribution. Employment builds confidence and gives you the chance to network with other people and have a better social life. Families can make a difference by believing in the person and supporting their goal of working. They can help their family member figure out what they like to do, what they are good at, and practical things like getting to work on time."
With expectations, effort, patience and teamwork, the journey to a career can be a positive one. Along the way, we hope you will rely on the messages, guidance and resources in this booklet. Our intention is that the case vignettes of families of young adults with intellectual disabilities will inspire you to be proactive, seek out collaborations, and create opportunities for your young adult. For additional inspiration, we encourage you to visit the Real Life Job Success Stories websites listed in the beginning of the Resource section of this booklet.
As Sherry Elander, a special education teacher who helped many youth realize their employment dreams, points out, "A new day has dawned, with new opportunities and practices having replaced what used to be." Building on that hope, Nicole's mother reminds us, "Parents who are coming upon "Turning 22" with your child, fear not. It is a turning point for both you and your child and there truly is...life after 22."