Three days... two nights... several hundred miles...
and still processing all the information.
See, Jared and I just got back from our second year attending the I'm Determined Summit. This year Troy joined us this year as well.
And once again --- it was life changing.
I'm Determined is a time for youth with disabilities to come together to learn self-advocacy / self determination skills. While the youth are in their sessions, parents are in parent sessions learning all sorts of valuable information - from transitioning from school to adulthood, to taking care of yourself in order to support others, and much more.
The youth leaders at this conference are so impressive!
Each with a disability and each DETERMINED to reach goals that they have set for themselves.
Jared does not exactly look forward to going.
It pushes him - in ways that he doesn't like to be pushed.
He has an entire day on his own (meaning at the Youth Summit without mom). It's an unfamiliar environment, unfamiliar people, and very social...
all of which equal a very tough time for Jared,
who, because of his autism, unfamiliar things and anything social can create a perfect storm.
On top of that - he is asked to communicate!
Communicate to others and share his view on what his strengths are, what his goals and dreams are, what he needs to be successful, and what a good day looks like for him.
Communication - another difficult area for Jared. Jared communicates - just not always using words.
And it takes someone really knowing Jared, knowing him, to understand who he is and what he is trying to communicate.
Everything about the I'm Determined Summit is difficult for Jared.
And to be honest, it is difficult for me.
I like to protect Jared and keep him from any difficulty as much as possible.
I also have been his voice, in so many circumstances and for so many years, that it is difficult for me to send him off and not be there for him.
In addition, there are a lot of teens at the Summit who despite their disabilities and their struggles, are very social and verbally communicate very well.
Some of these students have such incredible stories that they can share - clearly and all by themselves.
And I can count on Jared having a meltdown at least once while we are there. (He actually had two good sized anxiety ridden meltdowns this year).
It would be easy to say, "This is not for us".
The I'm Determined Summit is very powerful for my family, for Jared and for me.
It reminds me:
Jared is always capable of more than I give him credit for.
We grow when we are stretched. We ALL grow when we are stretched.
Jared should have a HUGE say in the direction of his schooling and his life. After all it is HIS life.
Everyone has struggles. Everyone uses supports in one way or another.
And most of all, spending time at the I'm Determined Summit, reminds me...
that I need to be willing to let go! (For those who know me, and who know what a control freak I can be, you know how difficult this particular thing is for me).
But I was reminded this week again...
that I need to have the courage to let go
courage to let go and let Jared make more decisions
courage to let go and let Jared have more of a say in his future
courage to let go and let Jared have experiences that may be hard
courage to let go and let failures happen
I am reminded over and over again to have courage.
Jared lives a life of courage!
I have learned so many things from him. He has been and continues to be my best teacher. He shows me how to live life with courage.
The I'm Determined Summit puts teens with disabilities side by side with each other and learn from each other - how to be a self-advocate and find a dream within themselves
it puts parents of teens with disabilities side by side and builds our knowledge base, builds our support base, shows us that others experience the same sort of struggles that we do.
But for my family - the most powerful thing we bring home from the Summit - is a renewed sense of COURAGE - to continue pushing forward no matter how difficult this life gets!
I am still afraid but I have found courage once again.
What a GIFT!
Thank you for the experience I'm Determined!!