27 Sep End of Parent Weekend
Well, the final day of Parent Weekend at Heritage went very well. We picked Jonathan up Sunday at 9:00 am and then went straight to a session with our therapist. We reviewed the events of the weekend, sharing a number of details with him about how well Jonathan did on the off-campus visits.
When grabbed lunch at Smashburger (a new place for us all) and brought it to our hotel, where we enjoyed it out in a beautiful gazebo and spent an hour or so swimming in the hotel pool. After a short time of sunbathing and connecting in conversation, we retired to our room, where I had quite a bit of school homework to complete. Jonathan and I enjoyed some football together while I worked as well. Watching football together is a favorite activity for me and Jonathan, so it was nice to get to do it again with him for an afternoon.
In the evening, we were able to get online for a video conference with my sister, April, who lives near us in Simi Valley, and my brother Steve, who lives in Garland, Texas. It was a great hour of Jonathan and them conversing about what his life is like at Heritage. Near the end of the call, as my brother and sister were encouraging him, tears began to well up in his eyes.
Right after the call was over, he laid on the bed and just started sobbing, which got Colleen and I crying with him and comforting him. When he was able to compose himself and we asked what he was feeling, he just said, “I miss my family so much!” As hard as that was, it was a good thing to see and experience with him.
After a good cry together, he wanted to get some Krispy Kreme! Right next door to our hotel, with only two store sin all of Utah, could there be a better comfort snack? Off he and Colleen went while I completed my last assignment.
We enjoyed a day of being together, talking, laughing, watching football, eating and even sleeping together, as he got to spend the night with us. In the morning, we ran a few shopping errands for Jonathan before we headed him back to Heritage and then made our trip home.
All in all, the weekend couldn’t really have gone any better. Our next trip there is schedule for the week of December 11. Jonathan is in the school play, one of the things which Heritage is very known for, their production arts program, and it shows that weekend. We’ll drive out, this time with Josh, on December 11, see Jonathan’s last show of A Christmas Carol on the evening of December 12, and then do a family therapy session on December 13.
Depending on how Josh is doing with everything, we hope to take Jonathan off campus with us for 2-3 days nearby to celebrate his 16th birthday, which is December 14. We’ll also celebrate our Christmas since we won’t be together for it this year. When we return him to Heritage, we’ll do a follow-up session with the therapist to review how things went and what needs to be worked on further.
From there, if that trip goes well, we’ll look for some time within the first months of 2012 for Jonathan to make his first home visit. As we understand it, a few of those must be done successfully for Jonathan to continue to progress through his program and complete it successfully. He has a number of “phases” and “stages” he has to work through to “complete the program” and be eligible to return home.
Just to clarify, there is no timeline or schedule for this to happen. Each student works through their own program and they take whatever time is needed to do so. The treatment team for each student meets every Wednesday to review progress. The school district IEP (Individual Education Plan) Team meets every six months to review progress. Our first IEP Team review happens on October 10. The one year review takes place around April 1 for us. Those meetings take place by conference call, and the entire Heritage Treatment Team is on thos calls to navigate Jonathan’s progress and make recommendations to the IEP Team.
The weekend wasn’t without challenges, particularly Jonathan’s stated desire to be somewhere closer to home and to finish the program before his Junior year of High School. However, he handled all of our conversations very well, and best yet, he actually conversed very well with us. It was good, solid, back and forth communication.
We let him know that we have no plans to pull him early and that the treatment team at Heritage would be the ones to ultimately let us know when he is ready to return home. Even though he strongly communicated his desires, he accepted our replies and says he even knows that being at Heritage right now is good for him and all of us. That alone is worth the pain of being separated right now. As hard as it was to leave him again, we came home with great hope for the future!