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Our children's future: preparing them for adult lives.

In May, we published and distributed Exceptional Parent's Guide for Active Adults with Disabilities, featuring mobility -- our first step in providing practical, lifestyle information for active adults with disabilities. For some time now, our subscribers have been reminding us that their children have become adults; they have been asking for information that their children and/or they themselves could use. In addition, we have heard from many people with disabilities, families, professional organizations and advocates from all over the world who have suggested that the kind of quality editorial material and product and service advertising range that Exceptional Parent provides could be a model for a publication designed to play an important role in the lives of adults with disabilities.

When we rounded Exceptional Parent, we dreamed about a world that would accept children with disabilities and provide supports, experiences and education to prepare them to lead the fullest possible adult lives. Each year for many years, adulthood was the theme of one issue in order to illustrate for parents and ourselves that life after childhood was possible. But, as we look back, we realize how limited we were in our initial perspective. Today, the expanded experiences of active adults with disabilities have provided all of us with a much better sense of the rich lifestyles they enjoy.

After we distributed the magazine for adults, we talked to people we met about the topics they wanted presented. We discovered that many were interested in articles on how they themselves could be better parents. Others discussed their need to have information about fitness. The world of work and adaptation to the work environment was the focus of many. Driving and learning to drive, as well as independent living, were other topics discussed with interest and excitement.

As we began to talk to experts, we discovered how little preparation and attention had been given to providing people with disabilities with the learning experiences necessary for them to participate in these everyday areas of living. One expert discussed how children with disabilities were ordinarily deprived of the kinds of experiences that prepared people to even begin driving lessons. Another expert discussed how ordinary issues of fitness were ignored, how so often the child with a disability was set aside in the school's athletic program and asked to simply observe, despite federal law mandates.

Looking at the pages of our own magazine, we realize that we ourselves seem to focus on the present and on helping parents develop practical solutions to everyday problems. It is common for all of us when dealing with difficult situations to look for solutions that often narrow our perspective. Some years ago, we considered how seldom we asked children with disabilities what they were going to do when they grew up. We realized how we unwittingly conveyed our uncertainties about an adult life for children with disabilities.

We also learned how often the youngster in the process of growing up demanded that his or her parents provide opportunities for experiences that the parents had ordinarily assumed were not possible. It is often the youngster who asks for an expanded social life -- parties, dances, proms -- while his or her parents want to deny the social and sexual aspect of his or her life. It is often the youngster who wants to try going to camp or living away while his or her parents are concerned about their child being teased. It is often the youngster who asks to learn how to drive, but the parent expects the driving instructor to tell them it cannot be done.

We cannot plan and examine every experience and how it relates to what's next throughout the year. The summertime is a good time to begin thinking about getting the youngsters ready for the next school year. We can start to take a look at the child's educational program in an expanded way. We can begin to try to understand and ask educators how current experiences fit into the ordinary processes of growing up. And we ourselves can begin to ask what kinds of experiences we can provide our children at home or in the editorial pages of our magazine to contribute to the same goal.

We have seen how dealing with the issues of adults and children should enrich the editorial content of each magazine. Looking at adult issues has sharpened our understanding of what we need to discuss with parents of children with disabilities. Examining the editorial material in Exceptional Parent clarifies what needs continuous emphasis in the lives of adults with disabilities. And finally we can see how adults and children with disabilities and their families can join together to enhance the lives of all.
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Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Klein, Stanley D.; Schleifer, Maxwell J.
Publication:The Exceptional Parent
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Jul 1, 1992
Previous Article:How It Feels to Live with a Physical Disability.
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