Your 21st birthday is always eagerly anticipated. It is an important rite of passage. However, if you are a young adult with special needs, it marks the countdown to when the school bus stops coming. This is a major milestone, but also a very scary one, because of a fear of the unknown. Up until age 21, the local school district is responsible to provide services but after 21 responsibility shifts to the state. Our daughter Danielle, who has autism, turns 21 this month. As her parents, we are left with a nagging awareness that, despite all we have done to lay the groundwork for our child’s future, so much lies outside our control.
When Danielle was born, we envisioned our little girl doing many things: dance recitals, college, getting married. Things turned out much differently. God had other plans for Danielle, which turned out to be just as beautiful and just as grand. We learned to trust God, who knew Danielle before He formed her in her mother’s womb. It is time to remember this as we embark on a new chapter in Danielle’s life.
We have been busy in the days leading up to Danielle’s 21st birthday. Applications to state agencies, meetings with support coordinators, and visiting various day programs have been overwhelming and sometimes disheartening. There are fewer meaningful programs out there than we thought there would be, and more than a few lackluster ones. However, we will continue to hope and trust in God’s plan for Danielle and for our family.
Her 21st birthday is a reminder to look back and reflect on how far she has come, the progress that she has made, and the joy she brings to our life and to all around her. Happy 21st birthday, Danielle!
Copyright 2019 Dave and Mercedes Rizzo