Podcast Episode 36. Planning ahead helps us reach our goals, and although we can’t prepare for everything, a plan gives us a general direction to travel and can even help us identify a final destination. In this week’s episode, we hear from Laura who has helped her son Jonathon plan ahead. This planning has enabled him to create a vision for his independent future, as well as prepare for the unexpected.
We start Laura’s story with Jonathan at primary school struggling to access education but finally, after a legal fight, he was placed in a school which could provide the support he needed. Jonathon is now 19 and just about to leave full-time education. Laura spoke about a variety of issues they have worked on related to independence including cooking, cleaning, shopping and learning to drive. Laura talks about enabling her son to be independent but in a very structured way.
One important part of Laura’s strategy was always planning ahead, particularly when it comes to thinking about work. She suggests sitting down with your child and talking about what they want to do and to making a list. Don’t just leap into the dark, instead, take time and think about it, brainstorm and write it all down. Then, go through the list together and consider each option carefully. Once you’ve done this, you’re ready to plan with a purpose, and you can use the plan as the basis to start moving forward.
Planning five years ahead, or even ten, might sound difficult but working out where you want your young person to be in five/ten years’ time and how you’re going to help them get there is surely better than hoping it all works out in the end. As Laura says, “..never concentrate on the present, it’s the future you’ve got to always be thinking about.”Show Full Transcript
DEBRA: Welcome to episode 36 of the Journey Skills podcast. This week I’m talking to Laura who has a son who’s exactly where I hope to get my daughter in a few years. He’s about to leave full-time education, he has a plan for his future and he’s already equipped with many of the skills he would need for an independent future. So really this episode is about sharing a story from someone who was being there and to an extent done it, although as Laura says herself, there’s still plenty of planning for the future to be done. Laura shares a story from the beginning where she got her son a place at the school which she now credits for providing the solid base in which he’s been able to develop some of the skills.
Laura talks about having a five-year plan and how we need to think about what you were doing now and how that will enable you to get to that point; did you wish to get to in five years’ time? Now maybe like me, you’ve heard all about the need to plan and you know it’s a good idea but you haven’t quite got around to it. I think listening to Laura might just persuade you to make a start if you haven’t already. And I know Laura is right because with my youngest daughter, I need to over-plan her future to make sure she’s learning everything she needs to know which will enable her to be independent when she gets older. And I guess the issue then is that we need to start thinking about our mortality and in a sense, we’ve been doing that recently by sorting out our wills and making sure we have a vision of what we want our daughter’s life to look like at least in the financial sense.
And to sum it up in a few words, it would be about financial freedom and the ability to choose. Of course, the benefit system is there and it’s a good safety net and I don’t want to come across as pessimistic about the future of benefits, or anything like that, here in the UK or anywhere else in the world but having a plan not relying on the state does give me a bit more peace of mind.
And Laura touches a little bit on choice when she talks about qualifications and how getting qualifications does open up more choice. So, I’m going to take Laura’s advice and sit down with my daughter and have that conversation properly about what she wants to do because I think I might have been going along without a real plan and I certainly haven’t had a proper conversation with her about what she really wants to do; long-term means sense of a career. Of course, we talked about the future and I sometimes had to point out some of the issues with the career choices that she’s proposing. Most recently that was a Harry Potter studio tour guide and for someone who’s not over keen on crowds or mean lots of new people, they’ve had to discount that as a career choice.
DEBRA: This week I’m talking to Laura who is a parent of a young man who’s now age of 19. Welcome, Laura.
LAURA: Well, hi.
DEBRA: You tell us a little bit about your story?
LAURA: Yes, of course. My son went to a local primary school. We had an eight-year old child who was non-verbal. Local authority had sat us down and said there wasn’t something more they could do. We felt that our son was capable of a lot more but we were quite chosen that was a parent of you rather than sure of what was there. So, we had jump from actually accessed and he was found to have a very, very severe speech and language disorder. Severe Dyslexia, Dyscalculia, Verbal and Physical Dyspraxia and obviously need a specialist placement. And that was in 2008.
DEBRA: But did you find a specialist? A school?
LAURA: Yes, yes. Once he’d been assessed, we had to actually launch an appeal against my son statements. That went to tribunal two days before the tribunal nearly backed down and allowed him into the special school. Two tribunes since there as well so that we’ve had crossed that journey but he had remained at school since 2008.
DEBRA: And what kind of things do you think the school has helped came with?
LAURA: First of all, my son had huge issues about self-confidence and which impacts on everything because he didn’t want to study, he didn’t want to socialize so what they’ve done firstly is actually equipped him with self-confidence and raised his self-esteem so that now he feels that he can study, he can have friendship groups and that was the most important thing to establish with him in the early days to enable him to actually realize that he could do things and that he should be doing things.
DEBRA: So, the school helped him build his confidence that he’s coming up to 19? [Yes] Is he just about to finish school? [Yes, he finishes school this July] So, what’s next?
LAURA: I’m very, very lucky that we’ve got a family farm and Jonathan actually wants to be a farmer so that’s really cool. So, he’s got a love for what we can actually enable him to do. So, when he was at the school and he’d finished his GCSEs, he was able to get placements at a agricultural college and with the aid of his specialist school, he’s been able to complete all the levels up to a level three. He’s obviously not got the capability of going to a University. I don’t think he’d actually want to either so he’s actually gonna come back to the family farm and we hope to take actually use the apprenticeship scheme so he’s gonna come back to us with his level three which gives a good understanding of agriculture. He’s going to go to a local college; into land-based engineering which will give another string to his bow so that he’s got more independence within that field so that not only he could work for us but he could possibly work for other people as well. Jon cannot come home and just think he’s gonna want the family farm. He’s got to be in a position where he’s got independence to actually think about five years ahead. So that five-year plan is always there. We never concentrate on the present. The present is done and dusted. It’s the future you’ve got to always be thinking about.
DEBRA: So, when you said a five-year plan, what do you mean?
LAURA: Five-year plan in as much as you’ve got to be planning where you’re going to be in five years’ time and how things are gonna be enabling you to get to that point. So, Jon is going to be coming home with his agricultural which will enable him to welcome the family farm as it is in present but it doesn’t give him all the skills so I’ve got to think in five years’ time: how old am I going to be, how old is my husband going to be, how old is Jonathan going to be, what are his aspirations at that point going to be. I would very much like to see him as a young man in a relationship probably running his own business and having the independence but disregard the part about him running his own business. I just want to see him being actually working in a fulfilling job so I’ve got to equip him with qualifications to enable him to do that.
DEBRA: So, the focus is on getting him qualifications at this stage?
LAURA: Yeah, so he’s got a choice. I think it’s very important in life to actually have a choice; do I want to do this? No, I don’t but I’m actually enabled to do something else as well. And I’ve got the confidence to actually do the other thing as well. Not necessarily the qualifications to do something else but a choice and enable them to make a choice.
DEBRA: So, the ability to think that you could do and if you want it.
LAURA: Yeah, it might be something that you’re overqualified for but something you actually want to do but you can make that choice, you can go and do that.
DEBRA: So, it’s not necessarily in your head that he’s gonna stay with you working on the farm forever?
LAURA: No, I don’t think it should be. Because I don’t know who he hopefully will meet. It might be somebody who’s based somewhere else in the world. They might be not based in agriculture themselves. On the other hand, it may be but that’s a choice that went to scan that you know, the other person may want to move with him on the farm and be with us here but it’s not always that enabling part to actually make that choice.
DEBRA: How you help him with some of the other challenges in about relationships?
LAURA: Well that’s been challenging. The first thing obviously with him is actually getting him self-reliance so we’re going for the business of actually looking at a very basic level; can Jonathan actually cook, clean, shop, manages his own money? We’re more or less kind of ticking us boxes. Through his school, he can actually cook, he can cook for himself. We’ve actually got him doing driving lessons. We live in a rural community so he’s got to have independence. So, it’s been very, very much about on a personal level making sure that he is his own unit. He can actually get the money, know where to put it, know how to budget, so he can shop, he can pay bills. So that has been the first stage just to make sure that I’ve got to know the jumps and functions on a personal level. Once that was ticked, the next thing is actually to make sure that he can actually work on a professional level, by that I mean, the working environment.
DEBRA: Has it been scary sort of letting him go with some of these things like driving lessons?
LAURA: Yes, absolutely awful. You over-plan continually. I’ve always found on Jonathan that I’ve always very, very much looked for the one to one basis. I’ve always had to really pre-plan it. We started Jonathan off the driving the family car and found that they actually change gears was a little bit difficult. So luckily enough, I was just driving through town one day and I saw a car pass me and it said “I’m a side of the door for disabled people to drive”. So, I’ve got “Ah, okay run him up” and man came out and talked to Jonathan and took Jonathan out for drive and said “There’s no reason that your son can’t drive. No problem at all. He: s a very sensible, very intelligent young man. But can I just suggest the first step you make is an automatic car so you relieve the problem of changing gears.” So that’s what Jonathan do. He’s gonna learn to drive an automatic car and as the chap said who’s teaching him at the moment, “Get on his belt, continue the lessons with me, build up the confidence on the road on an automatic car and then go for the manual. Luckily, the trucks at the moment they’re all automatic so that’s not a problem. I’ve always found that I’ve always have to plan jump the swimming lessons or one-to-one. His riding lessons were one-to-one and once I’ve actually removed the elements of very over-crowded, busy environment, when Jon is with one-to-one people, he’s absolutely fine. He can do everything. He’s actually just getting that confidence and that’s just one-to-one with Jonathan but that’s pretty fine.
DEBRA: I was wondering when you start to sort of think about hi, I suppose, going out and living independently. What’s the scary part of that in terms of this yet, is he good with money?
LAURA: He is good of money. What he’s not so good at when he has his wage from doing things on the farm, he’s not to see it large he would spend it in silly way. What Jonathan’s got to be well aware of that he’s in a very protected environment as such so he’s got to be aware that you actually have bills that come in and make it a point. He’s got to be aware of those big bills that come in and the pre-planning that you have to do. That’s going to be Jonathan’s next. He’s well aware of budgeting in relation to find his weekly food. He knows that he’s goes to supermarket, we have £25 enough probably to save a cabin full. So, I think on that basis, but what Jonathan got to now learn is the actual budget to planning in relation to business.
DEBRA: Will he live with you on the farm [Yes] or is the plan he will eventually leave?
LAURA: He lives with us on the farm but we’ve set Jonathan up very independently so that he is on online banking and he’s totally in control of his own banking. I every so often pop in to his online banking just to make sure that is actually going smoothly as I do with his Facebook page. So, I just pop in to see who’s he following, who’s following him. All the messages okay and then I back off. But I’m just very much enabling Jonathan to be independent but in a very structured way so that we’re guiding that. It’s that shadowing aspect, the helping hand down again but then stepping back because the other thing you should learn from experiences of things going wrong but with our children, you have to make sure that those experiences are going wrong also devastating but it just totally destroys them. They’ve got actually in the position where they pick themselves out. I think there’s a lot lesson. That’s fine. As I taught you this, understand that, that’s how I avoid it, that’s how I carry on.
DEBRA: That can be quite hard though because you often see your child as vulnerable. [Yes] That could be really difficult to take that step back [Very much so]. And I thought that anyone wants their children to be in negative situation.
LAURA: But at the same learn. And that’s what life is. But it’s actually putting it in perspectives. It’s not the end of the world, okay? It happens to me, it probably happens to somebody else, and there’s ways of dealing with that. What do I do to make it right and how do I carry on? Just picking yourself on getting on with it.
DEBRA: Is he looking forward to leaving school?
LAURA: No. No he’s really, really worried about it but we’ve gone for gist it in saying that “Remember how worried you were when you went from your primary school into your specialist school? You were really concerned.” Taking him back to that and saying “It’s fine, isn’t it? And now you don’t want to leave where you are.” So, yeah, it will be fine. You experience challenges but just step back and look at this. You’re actually moving from a specialist environment which is actually structured, it’s giving you strategies, you’re still with us. Do it but do it with us and then when you have to make a change again in the future, which you will, don’t think that you’re never gonna have to do this again but then you can draw from this experience and just they’re not it’s okay, it’s alright. I can do this and it will be fine. And just use the strategies that you used this time as well. You don’t just take a leap into the dark, think about it; what am I going to do, why am I doing it, how am I gonna do it. Sit down with piece of paper. First of all, brainstorm; what’s so good and bad about this? Write it down on a list in front of you and then look at the goods and the bad points and actually trying to dismiss bad points as much as possible. Is that an irrational fear? Is that a really fear? No, cross it off. Look at the fears, how am I gonna deal with them? And you’ll soon see that actually even the things on the side of the list put you on negative result, fears or problems, you can actually deal with them and said you make a very planned, structured move.
DEBRA: He’s in a great position that he does at least have some sort of purpose. [Yes] But what advice would you give other parents hearing similar situation to you whose child as young adult at this stage and they’re just about to leave school, what kind of things do you think can help them with that transition?
LAURA: Well I think first thing is to sit down with your young person and to actually talk, actually establish what they want to do and sit down and make that list that I was talking about. Consider all the options, you don’t disregard anything initially as being silly or foolish. What do they want to do, write it all down and look at it? Some of the ideas on the list are gonna be silly but even that is a valuable experience because you can say “Okay, you’re not gonna be a brain surgeon, you don’t have the qualifications, you don’t have the capabilities. It’s not gonna happen.” Even though they may be interested in something medical that can actually lead you into something else. So just talk initially, put your ideas down on a piece of paper so they’re actually there on a piece of paper, you can see them, it’s something you can handle and actually start making plans. It doesn’t matter how big or how small they are. If you’ve got your structure and you start. It doesn’t matter. Every journey starts with few steps. It doesn’t matter if you move an inch. It doesn’t matter if you move afoot. But you’re moving and you’re guiding yourself forward. And that’s the thing to do but don’t sit still. You’re not the first person to go through this. You’re not gonna be the last person. If your experiencing is somebody else does. So, you start with putting in perspective. Once you found that, actually make your plan, start moving forward. It doesn’t matter how grand or how small it is, just do it.
DEBRA: Did you have to encourage him with the driving? Or anything like that? Has that come from him or has that come from more you putting that in his plan?
LAURA: Us putting it in his plan. Sent him “Okay, you’re 17, how about some driving lessons?” He said, “Okay, yeah, okay but it’s not gonna happen.” “Yes, it will be fine.”
DEBRA: Because you were talking about that written plan, all those things that they might wanna do, as a parent, do you need to then add any things that you know…
LAURA: Yes, because you do it with them. You’re not letting them dwell not their own. You’re not size thinking, oh my goodness what’s gonna happen, you do it as a team. You approach it together. So, it’s a little of you, it’s a little bit of them. It’s a little of you putting in your life’s lessons saying “I should have brought a radio it gonna work” but not to be negative about it either. To say “Hey, you know you’re really interested in that particular area. What about this, what about that. Think about different avenues to it.” If they love gardening, what about doing something landscape gardener, horticulture, agriculture. There are so many different things involved in every particular thing that you look at but you can find a way forward.
DEBRA: You think then that sometimes what happens is when young people leave school that they just become almost in abyss? [Yes] Because nobody sat down and thought about. It’s really down to us the parents, isn’t it? [Yes, yes.] To do that, thinking. There will be a lot of thinking but certainly…
LAURA: With them. Very much it’s a joint thing. You must assume and you must not think ‘Oh my goodness, what am I going to do?’ This is not about you, it’s about them. It’s their life. It’s their future. So, it’s got to be something that you do with them. The other thing I thought about very seriously in the early days was ‘Okay, it was all very comfortable, thinking about things, what would I want and actually thought I’m not gonna be here forever and I’ve got no knowledge of when I won’t be here. It could be tomorrow. Now it’s all got me thinking ‘Oh, what would he be doing in 10 years, 20-year time’. I’m not gonna have that crisis so you’ve got to grasp it now which is now, because you know, it has to be because I just don’t know if I’ll be here tomorrow so I’ve got to have laid those foundations now.
DEBRA: So, your tip really is to do something now rather than later?
LAURA: Yes, that conversation has to happen now. There has to be a conversation together. There’s no tomorrow. You’re here now. Do it now.
DEBRA: Laura, thank you very much for your time.
LAURA: It’s okay. Thank you.
DEBRA: Key takeaways? Plan ahead with purpose and as a team and do it now.
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