My son Jake has Myotonic Dystrophy which has caused him to have some major learning disabilities and behavioral issues – which affected his abilities to have success at school. When we moved to a small town, he was able to have a para assist him at his new school. He was in 7th grade and really wanted to try woodshop – so he (and his para) learned all about the different tools and the safety rules and once Jake could pass the Safety Test, he was allowed to start using the tools in the woodshop.
His para was a bit concerned that Jake would have difficulty using the tools due to some fine motor skill issues and that he might get hurt, but he turned out to be one of the most safety-conscious and serious students in his class. He started with easier projects – making small toys that came in kits. Little by little, he got better – and was able to make bigger things. I think he took woodshop every year after that, and his projects grew in size.
We moved to a larger city when Jake was starting his Senior year in High School. He was excited when he was able to get into a woodshop class again. He told me about a chair he was making. He figured it would get finished about the time school ended for the year. It was an Adirondack chair and once in awhile he would give me updates about his progress.
As it got closer to the end of the school year, I asked him how he was planning on getting the chair home. He couldn’t take it on the school bus. It wouldn’t fit in my car. So he said he would carry it home – several miles – uphill. I told him that wasn’t a good idea because it was too far and the chair would be too heavy. But he was adamant. He got offers from teachers to have them take it for him in their vehicle, but no – he was going to carry it.
The day came when he had to take it home. It was the end of May in the Pacific Northwest. Temperatures were warm, but not overly so. He picked up his chair and headed home. It was a long walk. Uphill. People along the way would say, “Nice chair!” which encouraged him. He got tired. And thirsty. So he did what made sense. He put his chair down on the side of the road and sat in it to rest. Had some water from his water bottle. Once rested, he continued on, trudging up the hill towards home. He had to rest several times along the way. He was over half the way home when it started to rain. No problem. He carried the chair upside down over his head and shoulders. Once he got home, he still had to carry it up three flights of stairs to our apartment. It had taken him a couple of hours to make the journey. He was exhausted! But so happy and proud of his accomplishment! Not only did he make a fantastic chair, he independently figured out how to get it home, and stuck to his plan the entire time, even though it was hard. I admire him for that.
He has since graduated and we have the chair out on our balcony. He is beginning the process of working with an agency that assists disabled adults find employment. I have been with him for his appointments. He has spoken with a number of different people who have asked him what kind of work he would like to do. His response is always the same – “I’d like to work in carpentry. I know all the safeties of the tools and I made a chair. It’s an Adi………..Mom, what is the name of that chair again?”
To which I would reply, “Adirondack.”
“Oh yeah!” he would say, “Yes, it was an Adirondack chair! I made it and brought it home myself.”