October 27, 2009
What’s a girl to do? No, literally, what will Lauren do with her days as an adult? What are her interests? What will work for her? These are the questions I began asking as Lauren got close to the time she would need to leave the protective walls of her high school. I didn’t see a paying job in her future. Lauren doesn’t understand the concept of “earning” money and it is not important to her. What is important to her is being busy – which to Lauren means leaving her home, being around people, and being exposed to new sounds, sights, smells, and activities. I had looked at some local day program options and knew that Lauren would not be happy spending her days there. I knew we had to take the option of self-direction and developing something ourselves.
We live in a rural area. We awaken each morning to the calls of birds and deer grazing in our fields, but the wonders of nature hold no interest for Lauren. The busy streets of a more suburban location might hold more opportunities for activities, but the wandering lanes through woods and fields are where our family calls home, our comfort zone. Here is where I must create a future for Lauren.
Lauren loves to shop. Malls are her favorite places. She even enjoys the grocery store...and there’s always Wal-Mart. With that in mind, For Your Convenience was born. For Your Convenience combines Lauren’s love of shopping with the opportunity to do something positive and productive in her community. I contacted two local offices and asked if the staff might need someone to do their grocery shopping errands for them once a week. Not their big, weekly shopping, rather the odds and ends you need every few days that eat into your lunch hour when you have to take the time to run to the store for them. Lauren and her DSP could pick up shopping lists, go to the grocery store for the items and deliver the groceries back to the office. Both offices agreed to give it a try.
I prepared shopping lists, laid out by aisle, for our “clients” to fill in with their needed items. Lauren and her DSP stop at the clients’ office on their way to the grocery store to pick up the lists. They have some petty cash with them and a highlighter to cross off the items as they add them to the cart. Each order is kept separate and rung up separately. If the client wants to use their store shopper’s card, they give it to Lauren with their list. Lauren and her DSP then return to the office, hand off the groceries, and are reimbursed by the client (we only use cash).
The one office that was using For Your Convenience dropped out after major staff changes, but the other office asked us to do two days instead of just one, so Lauren still puts in the same time shopping. She only does this twice a week because I believe doing it more would get boring for her. It’s been over two years since we started, For Your Convenience, and she seems quite happy with the routine we’ve established.
Of course, that leaves three full days and two half days for which we still need to develop activities. One morning a week, Lauren swims at the Y and her DSP has been great with filling up the rest of the time with the library, park, mall, and mom’s errands. I would like to come up with more concrete activities to add to her week, but I have been unable to so far. The faltering economy has slowed much of the growth in our area but has not stopped it completely. New stores, restaurants, and unfilled spaces continue to pop up every few months. Hopefully, one of them will spark an idea that will help fill in Lauren’s schedule and add purpose and meaning to her days.