Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Everyone Needs a Little Sophie

The glorious, incredible, effervescent Sophie! Sophie is the facilitator assigned to Jessie for a futures planning session (for and directed by Jessie) that we will be doing in the spring. Committed to person-centred planning (and having done PATHs and MAPS with Jessie and her friends and supporters in the past), we jumped at the chance to participate—for free!—in a new planning initiative for persons with disabilities in transition offered through a local organization called Citizen Advocacy. We get a newly trained facilitator to work with Jessie and ourselves as we gather friends, colleagues, and important (to Jessie and us!) community members and builders to help plan a future for Jessie that is rooted in her own dreams and goals. And the newly trained facilitator (in this case, Sophie) gets a focus person and family to practice on! Below is Jessie’s video of Sophie who, you might notice, is very pregnant and due at the beginning of March! (Jessie intends to chronicle the planning process by video with her Flip camcorder.)

This opportunity to do a person-centred plan fits in perfectly with our plans to try to sort out the miasma of a mess that life after school is turning into. We are feeling stumped by what comes next. The field is either wide open, or infinitely narrow, depending on your point of view. Jessie jumps from wanting to go to college or university, to wanting a job, to wanting to be an actor for the Disney channel. On Friday, she wrote:

“I would love to be a writer and a director. I want to be able to learn about behind the scenes and to learn new skills and to meet new people. It would be hard work, but I am willing and able to work and do the best I can. I’ll work hard. I will believe in myself, do the best I can and I want my voice to be heard. I am determined and I will be self-driven, but I would need lots of help and support from my friends and family.”

And then yesterday:

“I would like to pursue my acting and my dancing. I want to be motivated, self-driven, and dedicated to my work. I want to do something in my life. I want to change the world with my acting and dancing. I would like to take more acting classes and more dance classes in order to climb the high mountain to my dream. I want to combine these two elements together so I can audition for the TV show Glee.”

There is a part of me that knows, from past experience, to trust in the process—to always keep Jessie out there in the community doing what she loves and to be mindful of the opportunities that arise and coalesce to create a rich, challenging, “now.” That’s on my good days. When I have gone to church AND meditated.

On my bad days, well, on my bad days, I am afraid to admit, I alternate between making random panic-stricken unintelligible phone calls to programs/supports/schools/people and going back to bed and pulling the covers over my head. Oh, and I talk really fast so it sounds like I know what we are doing. I’m afraid that’s what I did when I met with Sophie for tea the other day. When she asked me what we (Dan and I) thought were the biggest roadblocks to Jessie heading toward her dreams I think I spewed a breathless monologue that went something like this: sheforgetseverythingandisveryimpulsive and nevergetsoutthedoorontime and wouldrathershakeashakerthanfinishalessonplan and oh myatherdaycareworkplacement shefoughtwithathreeyearoldoveratoy and Iamnotherbestteacherandshe . . .

To Sophie’s credit, she did not scurry away mumbling “OMD (or Oh Mon Dieu ... since we live in a bilingual country) what have I got myself into, this family needs a therapist not a planner!” She actually sat and listened and then redirected me without me even noticing it so we got back on the isn’t-Jessie-wonderful track where she, in her subtle way, refocused me on Jessie’s strengths and passions. (Did I mention that Sophie is a trained social worker?)

You see, while I am sometimes Jessie’s best advocate, I am also her worst nightmare: a babbling gray-haired, middle-aged Mom tired of reminding cats and other household inhabitants that the litter needs to stay IN the box (or the clothes in the laundry basket or the used pads in the garbage or the … well, you get the picture).

And I have to admit that, at times, oftimes, I descend into a fearful diatribe that includes “If you don’t get a handle on [insert task], you will end up in a GROUP HOME!!” Group home, in our house, being synonymous with hell. Jessie has learned to include this little tidbit in her own comebacks stomping up the stairs saying: “I am NOT going to [do my laundry, have a shower, brush my hair, insert any other task of choice]. I don’t care WHAT you say; I am NOT going to live in a GROUP home.” Lovely. I am not proud to admit this part; but I figure it should make any of you reading this feel much better about your own parenting skills because I doubt you have ever sunk quite so low.

Yet, just at the nadir of my fear and loathing about the future, Sophie was dropped into our lives. A bright, colourful, whimsical pregnant bundle of positive energy that immediately transformed our petty bickering into a joyful and exciting exploration of Jessie’s gifts, strengths, and passions.

Okay. That’s a bit over the top. But Sophie is like when, in the deepest darkest of winter you suddenly realize that the sun is coming up a wee bit earlier and setting a wee bit later and that you are actually aware of the sun—during the day, not just as a distant memory—and that it actually might, at some point in the future, warm your skin and even entice purple crocuses and yellow daffodils from the frozen ground.

So Sophie is just that little bit of hope that makes it easier to wake up in the morning and to feel that things can and will continue to grow. Everybody needs a Sophie, even just for a day!


Adelaide Dupont said...

Thank you for letting us know about Citizen Advocacy.

Enjoyed watching the video about Sophie.

One thing I noticed was the "self-driven" aspect. I think Sophie would probably point that out as a wonderful thing about Jessie.

And how fast you talk has no impact on the knowledge or appearance of same!

"I am also her worst nightmare: a babbling gray-haired, middle-aged Mom tired of reminding cats and other household inhabitants that the litter needs to stay IN the box (or the clothes in the laundry basket or the used pads in the garbage or the … well, you get the picture)."

Crocuses and daffodils to you!

Cindy said...

We've done that person centered planning with Beth as well. I've found that during school, the kids bring home papers and information and activity sheets and phone numbers and....

But after they graduate? It's all up to you. YOU find the services and the phone numbers and make the phone calls and organize your daughters life. I have found it so hard! Especially now that I'm working outside the home.

The PCP people sat down with us, asked Beth what her plans and dreams were and we set about to reach those goals. But it's up to US. If I don't make the calls and be the shuttle or set up the shuttle and ask for the paperwork (Is there paperwork?) and... it doesn't happen. And Beth is the one who suffers.

Personally, I miss the toddler years. Teaching Beth to walk was SO MUCH EASIER than all this adult stuff!! :)

Nan said...

Cindy: I agree with you! Teaching Jess to walk was much easier than this. However, what I am looking forward too (and this was the plus in the past when we did a MAP or a PATH) are all the other people who come to help plan (we will try to limit it to 12, as over that and it drags the session on) and then ... (and I told Sophie this) we create a circle of support that is not like a circle of friends (which we did when she was younger), but but more direct support and links to the community. We will hire someone to facilitate that ... and that's where the power comes ... in sharing the power. Right now I find that Jess needs lots of mentors and I am her worst teacher! So we are out there collecting teachers.

Adelaide Dupont said...


really appreciated the distinction between Circle of Friends and the links to the community.

About group home fear/threat, I read a really great chapter by Irene Slovak Keiner. It is called "Showdown", and I really would like to know what you think of it.

Showdown: in the section Independence and Dependence

(Read 50 years and find out if Ed did go to the group home).

Good luck with collecting teachers, because they might not come to you!