Wil’s Growing Independence

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about Wil as a young adult. Will he live with Matt and myself? Will he live independently with help? Will he have his own apartment with a friend? Wil is a very social person; he loves to swim, golf and hang out with friends. I know he’ll want to be involved in various activities as a young adult. Right now, with the pandemic, I’m always looking for ways to keep him active, healthy and interested in hobbies as there is less available. Recently, he had a virtual theater class with his Down syndrome support group. He greatly enjoyed singing and dancing with his friends he hasn’t seen for months.

Wil values his independence.  He takes walks by himself in our back field with our yellow lab, Woody. He calls these walks his “adventures.” While he handles most of his self-care on his own, he does not fully appreciate the dangers of traffic and strangers. He also doesn’t understand the value of money.  Over time, his understanding of finances and dangers may come. Or it may not. As I have not been gifted a crystal ball, what I can do is find ways to broaden his independence and foster his growth.

I thought Wil having time home alone with his good friend, Lila Harvey, would be a great independence booster for Wil. I asked Lila’s mom, Rebecca, if she would be comfortable with Lila staying with Wil for just over 2 hours without me home. Wil enjoys Lila’s company greatly, she is smart as a whip, and stands firm on her ground. She’s also very good at finding activities they both can enjoy; which is no small task especially for someone her age. I’m always impressed and thankful for their friendship. Rebecca and Lila were both on board.

When I told Wil he would be home alone with Lila, he looked up at me in shock, then said, “Yay!”

Wil and Lila both love music, so when Lila arrived, Wil got out his iPad and they started singing songs together. I left on that high note.

When I returned home, they were both racing their bikes in the driveway. Two pairs of mud-caked boots were on the porch and Woody was wet and muddy; his tail was a-wagging.

“Hi Mom!” Wil yelled out as he sped by on his bike. The scent of lemongrass bug spray hung in the air behind him.

“Hi Miss Christie,” Lila said, “we had a dance party then walked to the river. It was low and muddy, but we had a good time.”

I suppose in our own ways, we all tested the waters that day. Though our waters are not always crystal clear, they are good fun for jumping in and getting your boots muddy. I breathed in the refreshing scent of lemongrass hanging in the air as my son sped by at his own speed, his friend racing with him, and his dog’s tail a-wagging.

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