Among the many government aid programs that exist, there is financial assistance for people with disabilities to get vocational training or a college education. I have always known this, because my grandmother earned a college degree with disability funding. The idea is that people with disabilities have skills and knowledge that make them employable and independent. So, at your final IEP meeting, someone from Vocational Rehabilitation and knows What does a rehab facility look like is present to do an application for aid. That was in May. My only real memory of the meeting was Evan giggling and throwing crayons until Doug took him outside so that the case worker interviewing Tommy could turn to me and tell me that my then 2-year-old needed Ritalin. Since then, well, I’ve been in denial. Not about Evan. He’s just the youngest of five and I may be a teensy bit more lenient with him. I have been refusing to allow myself to accept that Tommy isn’t going to spend the rest of his life under the safety of our roof. My son isn’t really going away to college. He couldn’t even get dressed and on the school bus without his parents repeatedly asking him to get out of bed.
Then, I looked at a calendar last week and had a little panic attack. I think I’ve calmed down a bit, but Doug might disagree with that assessment. Hysterical or not, I had to meet with the case worker so that Tommy could sign his paperwork. Our initial meeting took place at the high school, but today I was sent to the Middlebrook DHS building. Mmmkay. Have you ever been in this building? To get in the building, you walk past a row of extremely pregnant women and teens smoking in front of a flower bed sized ash tray. You enter the doors and it is like the back of a classroom. Rows and rows of people are seated with their backs to you. A choice must be made. What appears to be an information desk is directly across the room. Nobody is there and you have to walk all the way around the people to get there anyway. On the left side of the room is a clerk at a counter with two women talking to her. It looks like the place where people are ligning up to be seen. You walk over there and immediately realize that this is the interpreter’s counter. The information desk is still unattended. Only one wall left and it has a row of clerks behind protective glass. There are signs everywhere ordering people to remain behind the red line. We walked to the red line. Two of the four clerks looked up and then returned to whatever they were doing in their safe place. After a bit, one of the women snapped, “What?” I was a little stunned by her annoyed tone and wondered if I had broken a rule. I told her we had an appointment with MM. The clerk’s demeanor changed and she asked the clerks on either side of her what she was supposed to do with MM’s clients. One of them suggested that she page MM. Tommy and I sat down in one of the rows of chairs to wait.
There were less than half a dozen men in the room. While we were waiting, a woman came out of the back room, glared at one of them and they left the building together. Every other person in the room except my 17-year-old son and I, was either carrying an infant car seat or obviously pregnant. The majority of them were teenagers. They talked on cell phones, smacked gum and played with their hair, but not a single one of them took their baby out of the car seat. Three dozen infants sleeping, cooing or crying and all were being completely ignored. Do you have any idea how much that bothers me? I wanted to go offer to hold one of those babies and treat them like people instead of dolls. Lucky for me, I didn’t get arrested for being a nosy old lady since MM the case worker came out to get us. We spent the next hour and a half filling out paperwork. Tommy isn’t even getting his full tuition paid by Voc Rehab, but it’s a part of scraping the needed money together to give him this chance. After years of IEP meetings that lasted for 4 and 5 hours, this was a breeze. The only time I felt my skin crawl was when the caseworker said she was relieved that we didn’t bring our youngest child. Raise your hand if you think this worker has no children of her own. We left the room and found a nearly empty waiting room. I guess there’s not much paperwork involved in whatever pregnant women do at DHS. The best part of the appointment was the knowledge that Tommy has to re-visit the case worker at the beginning and end of every semester until he is employed full-time. Blech. Oh wait. I have to gather everything needed to equip a dorm room. Sheets, blankets, towels and does he even have enough clothes to last a week without doing laundry? Ohhhhhh, why is this room spinning?