I started having major anxieties when my 22 year old son, Spencer, who has a disability began approaching graduation from High School. I was happy for him to graduate; but, I was worried about his future and his quality of life. There were many questions to be answered. What will he do with himself all day? What programs are available for him that he would like, thrive in and lead him on the path to independent living?
As I thought about Spencer and thousands of adults like him, I began pondering about their likes and dislikes and the skills that would make them feel and experience life as progressing through different stages of development. For the ‘Spencers’ around us, I know that whatever they are doing, it must be fun! Music, dancing, art, self-care activities and socializing, especially socializing, are some of the activities that have the potential to create both learning and enjoyment. I noticed that Spencer loves these activities and more so the ones in which pretty girls are involved.
My other anxiety had to do with my 80 year old father, Poppy, who was living with me for a while prior to his death. Poppy needed something to do during the day. The only program that was available for him was the local adult day care center. When I suggested it to him, he felt insulted, rolled his eyes, sucked his teethe and reminded me of his age, stating, “I am not a child and do not want to be in a day care center”.
After thinking about Spencer and Poppy, I understood how Poppy felt. Truly, they are both beyond the school stage of life. Going to college was a better option. It came to my mind that the two of them could benefit from being in college. Yes, a college that would have all the special accommodations needed for life long learning as well as skills development and maintenance training for young adults and senior citizens who are physically and/or mentally challenged. Just like Spencer, Poppy enjoyed self-care activities, music, art, dance and socializing.
In 2015, I along with the approval of the Board of Directors of the Parent’s Information & Resource Center, (PIRC) Inc. established JVirina College of the Arts under the PIRC’ umbrella.
JVirina College of the Arts initiative is designed to address the critical needs of both populations, by focusing on specific life long learning activities and quality-of-life needs.
Janet Virina Ward