Our Families Say 4

I  graduated from an alternative high school in 2006 – almost 6 years ago. I’m incredibly grateful that I went there, otherwise I would have dropped out of school at 15. The emotional support I received there was great, and the fact that I had severe anxiety and depression was understood. At that time, that’s all that mattered to me. It was a comfort, and I reveled in it. Looking back, I realize that emotional support wasn’t enough for me. I definitely could have benefited from learning life skills, or anything at all for that matter.

Unfortunately, not having learned basic life skills, which I think should be taught in every high school whether it be public, private or alternative, my life came to a complete halt after graduation. I was afraid to get a job because I completely lacked the social skills needed to sit through an interview. The thought of having to sit in a room with someone I didn’t know not only made me want to jump out of my skin, but it also made me physically ill. And forget college. I had become so used to being in a school that basically sugar coated life for me that I couldn’t bring myself to try to further my education for fear of being stigmatized by peers and professors due to my disabilities.

Things did eventually get better for me with a lot support and time. In 2009, I started going to college. I started off slowly and only attended online classes. I had an in interest in getting out of the house and volunteering, so I went back to PPAL to volunteer as youth mentor for the youth groups I had once attended as a youth who needed a connection. And last year, I got my first official job as a peer mentor, attended a class on campus at school, and even got my driver’s license.

It’s not impossible for youth and young adults living with disabilities to live fulfilling lives. If taught the right skills, they can strive and be successful and happy.

— 24yr old young adult