Jennifer Morrow and Brandon and Bree Hathaway
My name is Jennifer Morrow and I am the proud mother of two beautiful children: Brandon (17) and Bree (14) Hathaway. My husband, Bill, also has two wonderful children, Garrett (16) and Brianna (15). Brandon has Down syndrome.I have similar hopes and dreams for all of my children. That is that they grow up to be healthy, happy and productive members of society. Like in many other instances through life, to achieve this Brandon will have to work harder than most. It is my hope that one day he will have a place to call his own and a job that he loves. However, I also know that it is going to require a lot of time, a lot of effort and the funds to support his training and living expenses.Financially, it has been a challenge to provide for Brandon. I spent most of Brandon’s childhood as a single parent, which can be straining enough but much worse with a child with special needs. For example, after the age of 6, Chatham-Kent Children’s Services is no longer able to provide support workers for children in childcare programs – yet Brandon still required additional supervision to ensure his safety when he attended daycare after school, during the summer and holidays (and I needed to work to support my family). There were many times throughout Brandon’s childhood that I had to pay out of pocket to ensure that my son was being adequately cared for and kept safe.Brandon has recently completed his grade twelve year at the Pine’s. With his 18th birthday quickly approaching, we are entering another transition into a new phase of Brandon’s life. For an individual with special needs that also means great uncertainty. Brandon can continue attending the Pine’s until he is 21 or attend the Options program at our local college. While the Options program offers the life and work skills that Brandon will require to succeed in life, it also comes at a cost. Brandon will be required to take public transportation and move about the city without the aid of an assistant, which will be new to him and a challenge.Brandon has a strong desire to work, but there are wait lists and limited options for job training programs. Social opportunities (through the Special Populations program and Community Living) are limited, with wait lists and often come at a high cost.Brandon receives funds through Special Services at Home and Family Managed respite, yet these programs barely cover 8 hours of in-home programming per week. Far short of what Brandon would truly benefit from.Brandon lives at home and is content to continue doing so for now. However, Brandon is an adventurous soul and longs to be independent, so I am confident that he will want to live in supported housing at some point in the future.Until having a child with a disability, I had never fathomed the extra expenses that would be incurred as a result. Brandon cannot be left alone for more than a few minutes, which makes running to get groceries an arduous task, if he is adamant that he does not want to go. This is just a simple example to illustrate all that is taken for granted. It is very difficult to find child care for a 17 year old and funds from SSAH are all used up to provide one-to-one support so that Brandon can be active with school activities, learn life skills and participate in social functions.Having Brandon is truly a blessing. He has the ability to make other people feel better about themselves and life, simply by having spent time with him. Individuals with special needs are wonderful, living examples of what is right with the world: teaching values like acceptance, strength, faith and hope. My son, and others like him, deserve to be given fair opportunities to live their lives to the fullest. They need additional supports and funding to meet their full potential and to show the world what life is meant to be. Thank you listening to a bit of our story.
March 5, 2010