Every parent thinks about the day their child grows up and leaves home, but for the parents of children with intellectual disabilities this is especially challenging, both emotionally and financially. Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to visit Andrew, a young man in his twenties, who was born without eyes and has autism.
When I met him, he greeted me warmly and led me to the dining room of his home. Andrew doesn’t communicate through speech, but instead he uses a system of textured blocks. For example, there is a block with cornflakes glued to the top, one in the shape of a cookie, or a block for popcorn and so on. His choice that day was popcorn.
While Andrew polished off his popcorn, his mother, Mary Anne, told me about the house. Andrew rooms with a young woman named Caitlin, who is the same age and was also born without eyes. The two families worked with KenCrest to establish the group home. KenCrest provides caregivers and maintains the house. The men and women who assist Andrew and Caitlin have become like family to them. Mary Anne described the obstacles which she and Caitlin’s parents had to overcome before Caitlin and Andrew could move in to their new home. However, no matter what the obstacles, providing their kids with this level of independence was worth it. Now almost two years later, she gave me a tour of the modern, cheerfully decorated rancher. Andrew’s bedroom is decorated with a Beatles poster on one wall and a Bob Marley poster on another, fitting for someone who loves music as much as Andrew.
As I was about to leave, we went out on the front porch. I’m a notoriously bad selfie taker and Andrew tends to angle his head down. Yet, with a little prompting Andrew managed to lift his head and grin at just the right time, providing me with a nearly perfect selfie in front of the welcome sign, on his and Caitlin’s front porch, the place that they now both call home.
About the author: Joe Flood is a member of the KenCrest Centers Board and the father of two, Julia and Leo. Leo was born with Down Syndrome and received early intervention services through KenCrest. Joe is also a member of Doylestown Borough Council, stay at home Dad and a huge fan of the Phillies and Eagles.