AGING OUT = SENIOR YEAR
The 2008/2009 school year was full. Jess, her brother, and I were on track to graduate. Jessica’s routine included working at the nursing home. Throughout the year, she continued to make progress being independently mobile in the work setting. At year’s end, she was able to ride community transit, get to the building, enter the code to get in the door, and go to her clients’ rooms, all independently.
She had three clients on her caseload that she visited each day. The administrator at the facility described Jessica’s work as “meeting the esteem needs of the patients.” Beside the fact that Jess was helping the patients by visiting, interacting, and assisting them, the patients understood they were helping Jess, which made them feel they had an important role as well. It was a win/win. There was discussion of potential for a real job once Jess graduated. We were so thrilled and hopeful!
Note from Jessica – 1/18/09
“I am going to graduate from Heritage High School this spring. I am very excited about that. I want to get a job helping take care of people and making them feel better. Next week, I am going to go to the Special Olympics Winter games where I will compete in ice-skating. For graduation my Mom is going to take me somewhere…I’m going to be busy, busy, busy.”
Note from Jess – 1/28/09
“I have had a really good time on my trip. Sunday night, we had a nice dinner and then opening ceremony. I ice skated twice Monday and Tuesday in the morning and afternoon. I won two medals. I was so tired at the medal ceremony that I cried while getting my medal.”
“After that, I rested for a while in my room. We had a banquet and a dance, and I had so much fun. I danced all evening with my friends and some of my teachers like Mrs. McDowell. I stayed in a room with two other girls, Arnisha and Angel. They ice skated too. Today, we are going to breakfast, then we will head back to school. I am so glad I got to go on this trip. I am very excited to see my bus driver this afternoon. I have missed her.”
3/2009 – SENIOR TRIP TO WALT DISNEY WORLD
3/2009 – PROM at Hunter Museum of American Art
5/2009 – COUNTY SPECIAL OLYMPICS
Unfortunately, two things happened which derailed plans for the nursing home job. First, the facility and hospital it was associated with had a hiring freeze due to financial woes; second, anxiety continued to happen. Once at work, Jess did great most of the time. But, due to the nature of life in the nursing home, sometimes one of her patients might be indisposed, or in the hospital, etc., and Jess found those situations quite upsetting.
When we found out that they were not going to be able to hire Jess, she was offered the opportunity to continue as a volunteer. While she was still in school, this was no problem. She had support in place to get her on the bus to the facility and staff to go assist if needed. Late in the spring, we decided to work on making it as real life as possible. So, while she was still in school, we transitioned to the community transit bus picking her up at home in the mornings and taking her straight to the nursing home. This made life a challenge for us because her sister was in high school, and I was in nursing school. We both had to leave prior to Jessica’s ride arriving. We set up this desk by the front door so that she could watch for the bus to arrive. She could flip her cards while she waited.
Although it was great to have community transit, it was not (and isn’t) possible to schedule a specific pick up time. In reality, the pick up was within a window of time, like an hour or so, and her having to wait on that arrival ended up being a major source of obstacles and stress for all of us.
5/2009 – GRADUATIONS
A note from my sister who is Jessica’s aunt – May 23, 2009
“The Jessica A. Brooks Award – Last night during the first Heritage High School Class Night the first annual Jessica A Brooks award was presented to Jessica A Brooks ‘for accepting challenges with contagious, enthusiastic determination to accomplish personal goals while spreading joy to all she meets.'”
“Needless to say, this was a thrilling moment to witness. For those of you who don’t know, my niece Jessica was born blind and autistic. She is so excited to be a senior and graduating this year. I’m so proud and excited that her legacy will live on at Heritage High School.”
“When they announced her name and she stood center stage the entire graduating class jumped to their feet cheering and clapping for her. It was such a special moment.”
“Later in the evening Jessica said to me, “Honey, I’m almost famous.” I said, “Jessica, you are famous!””
The day that Jess had excitedly talked about every day all year…
and the day I had dreaded for 18 years finally arrived…