By Ann Martinka, Business Development Associate for Hammer Travel

As a parent of a child with a disability, the future is an unknown, intimidating and down-right scary place. During the early years, the focus of life is on the here and now. Taking life day by day is not an exaggeration, and the future isn’t even in the picture. As life becomes more “normal and routine,” the future begins to loom and it isn’t at all what we had pictured it to be. That is where we are in our life. My husband and I are the proud parents of 3 wonderful children, Levi (18), Joy (15) and Aaron (13). Our daughter Joy has Down syndrome.

Joy and AnnJoy entered high school this year. Along with that transition come different meetings regarding her future. One of the meetings we had in the beginning of the school year was called McGill Action Planning System (MAPS) or more frequently called Making Action Plans. Set up by Joy’s case manager, the purpose of this meeting was to discuss our hopes and dreams along with our nightmares and fears for Joy. We talked about her gifts and talents as well as the support she will need to be successful. This meeting involved important people in her life – her case manager, teachers, her brothers, my husband and me. Also with us, sitting on the table, was a box of tissues…most parents cry as they discuss the future.

We began by talking about our hopes and dreams for Joy. We want her to live away from home as independently as possible, have friends, and be a productive member of society (the same goes for her brothers). We then discussed our fears for Joy as it related to her future. Safety, vulnerability, loneliness, not being accepted or happy, and the constant struggle to reach her potential remain at the top of the list. As I sat there thinking how hard it was to be a parent, much less a parent of a child with a disability, it felt as if the weight of the world was on my shoulders.

Joy Cheerleading

As we began talking about the support that Joy will need to be as independent and productive as possible, I began to relax. I work at Hammer Travel, a subsidiary of Hammer Residences, Inc. We offer travel services and support for those with developmental disabilities. I have traveled with many individuals and have seen them step outside their comfort zones. They come to realize how wonderful other places can be and how much fun it is to travel. I have talked with individuals that had never been on a plane before. I could hear the pride in their voices as told me all about the flight. I have listened to the joy in their voices as the stories are told and re-told. I have watched their self-confidence grow and their dreams come true.

I know the Hammer programs, the people, the care and the support that are given daily. I know about all the training that is given to the DSPs behind the scenes. I have witnessed the respect, kindness and love that are provided daily to the people Hammer serves.

Joy 2Little by little, the weight began to lift off my shoulders; the future didn’t seem so bad. The fears began to dissipate. I quietly pushed the tissues aside, and we spoke of how we could help Joy live her life to the fullest, knowing that there is a great future ahead. With a renewed sense of confidence, I was able to leave the meeting smiling and happy about what lies ahead for my Joy.