Sphere Art Program: The Ridgefield group SPHERE had their end of summer art show last night. Our daughter’s many pieces were displayed including the papier-mâché dog head. She and her apartment-mate greeted us in the Lounsbury House, the 1896 mansion on Main Street that serves as Ridgefield’s elegant community center. SPHERE board members were taking pictures with the Town Selectman Rudy Marconi while members were moving through the grand rooms with their families looking for their works of art, including ceramics, papier-mâché, t-shirts, water colors and acrylics. One veteran member dressed in a long gown was seated at the piano in a front parlor with a page-turner at her side, performing “Memory”. It could have been 1896 (except for the Cats tune).
The Pioneers: The group makes and sells soaps and I bought three bars to give to youngsters who might enjoy a duck in a nightcap sealed up in a bar of glycerin. I saw our daughter light up when her dad walked in and I reveled in the support and camaraderie of the families and their special needs adult children, with their range of personalities and talents. The SPHERE organization is probably just one of hundreds throughout the country formed by committed parents determined to provide their older special needs children a place to experience the theater arts, creative arts, friendship, and housing. I continue to be in awe of the parents who were the pioneers of this group, dating back now twenty years, with many of the founding families and their very mature children still active in the group. (If you know of any other programs like SPHERE around the country, please let me know in a comment and put in a link to the organization.)
The Butterfly: The summer art program instructor is a full time teacher at a Connecticut High School. Her inspirational leadership of probably 25 plus members who are introduced to various fine art mediums through eight summer nights, speaks to those angels out there who populate the special needs parenting journey. With her blue eyes twinkling at me, she told me that our daughter is the social butterfly of the group. She does have a butterfly t-shirt, with wings spreading across her chest. She also has an owl t-shirt, the round brown owl eyes following a similar trajectory. The girl sports the most interesting array of shirts from animals in flight to pretty funny “in your face” slogans, not R rated of course, just hilarious.
On Another Note: While schmoozing over the humus and salsa, I met a mom whose daughter also just aged out of her school district and is the newest member of the SPHERE Group. The family knows our daughter’s apartment-mate, as they come from the same town. What is different about this young lady and our daughter is that she is autistic with an IQ that is above the acceptable range for DDS services. Consequently, the daughter does not receive any entitlements from the government, yet she cannot live independently or be self-supporting anymore than our daughter or her apartment-mate can. The tragedy of the “high-functioning” autism population in this country is that because of IQ points, they are prohibited from receiving the necessary protective and skill building governmental opportunities that those with lesser IQ testing scores obtain. Acquainted with many young adults who fall into this evil limbo, I know that they will be lost between the cracks and ignorance of a society that hasn’t a clue how cruel they are. I think this will change over the decades because of the statistical power of this unserved population and their families. But for now, I have to be grateful for what our daughter’s testing scores provide; care; training; and a protective network. Ironic isn’t it?
©Jill Edelman, M.S.W., L.C.S.W. 2011