I was recently asked why I had said "yes" to serving on the board of One Step Beyond. When I stopped to put my reasons into words, they sounded entirely personal, and absolutely subjective. But I suppose that isn't necessarily a bad thing when one is talking about helping adults with intellectual disabilities realize an increased quality of life, and ultimately a greater degree of happiness.
I have lived in the same community since its inception more than 31 years ago. When we built our house we had already adopted two children, and a third was in the bureaucratic wings, waiting for medical clearance to come home. We were excited about the prospects of a promising school system for our kids' education, and we were truly optimistic about being able to provide whatever was needed to get our children launched into their education. We were to eventually conclude that we had been sadly mistaken.
We learned that two of our three kids had significant learning disabilities. One boy was relegated to special education, and ultimately, years of marginalization and frustration because he didn't fit it. His social miseries far surpassed anything anybody inside or outside the family could remedy, and his family suffered right along with him. Attempts at "mainstreaming" him were miserable failures because of the extreme level of rejection and violence against the special ed population by regular students. I was perhaps too polite about some issues, and my attempts at cooperating with the "system" were ineffective. Regardless, I joined every committee I could find, and I was on a first name basis with school administrators, counselors, and teachers. Nothing helped, and nobody's good intentions prevailed.
My son has been out of school for many years, and is living independently in another state. I often wonder how his life would have been enhanced by the resources and support of an entity like One Step Beyond. I have no doubt that had it existed, OSB would have transformed both his immediate existence, and his entire future. Having a positive peer group and a welcoming place to be were never parts of his experience. OSB would have seemed like a miracle to a boy who seemed to belong nowhere.
So when asked, I said "yes" to furthering the efforts of One Step Beyond. I want my long-time community to continue to evolve into a place where the term "diversity" includes people with many differences and abilities. I have never quit hoping for alternatives for parents who struggle for answers for children they know will grow into adults who may live years beyond the ones at home who love them. But most of all, I want other special needs community members to be spared what my son was not.
I am glad to be taking a seat at the table with the other OSB board members. There is no way I could have said "no."