Thursday, January 25, 2018

"Speaking out for MAC" by Stephanie Welter

      When I was asked to “say something” for the brand new MAC School video, of course I said “yes!” right away. But, this time things would be different. Instead of speaking on behalf of my partner organization as a title holder, I would be speaking on behalf of The Minnesota Autism Center School as a parent to describe my son’s experience attending school there, and how our lives have changed as a result.


     The day before the video shoot, I was thinking about all the new things my son Benjamin has learned, and all the progress he’s made in his language skills just in the last year or so. As I made a mental list of the recent accomplishments, from cooking some of his meals on his own, to coming up to me in the kitchen just to tell me he loves me...a little ping notification came across my phone. It was an email from Ben’s lead therapist Joey at the MAC School. He just wanted to write me a quick note to tell me that Ben is truly “a star student.” He said Ben works hard every day to improve his skills. He also said that when he was asked that day what the students did the night before, Ben raised his hand, and when called on said with perfect complete sentences, “I was with mom, I ate pepperoni pizza, and we played cards.” When asked what game he played, he said, “We played garbage, and I WON!”


     My son is 20 years old. It’s amazing how most of us parents take little things for granted. But, to hear this come from my son, who just two years ago was not yet formulating full sentences is nothing short of amazing. It gives me new hope! There was a day when my son was a toddler and I was told he would not learn past the age of 7. The “experts” were wrong. Thank goodness! My son continues to learn new skills each and every month and I do KNOW his potential is unlimited.


     For parents of children with special needs, our biggest challenge can sometimes be to remain creative and hopeful in what often seems to be a “long” and tiring “process.” We hope and pray for rewards. We hope we’re making right decisions. We wonder if we could be...should be doing “more.” Having been on this journey now for many years not only with my son but with our whole family, I am inspired again. I have a bit of a “second wind” of hope as we turn the corner of adulthood with my son and continue to watch to see who this amazing and unique individual truly is. There’s more hope than ever before for families in need of tools and resources and my prayer is that my son Ben’s story will inspire families to keep moving forward, and keep expecting miracles...even if they’re little ones here and there...they add up.

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