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FAMILY FIRST: Local family discusses developmentally disabled son’s next journey
by Christine Fonville
June 24, 2014 10:16 AM | 1426 views | 0 0 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print
From left, Sissy Luciani, her son Tyler and husband Michael.
From left, Sissy Luciani, her son Tyler and husband Michael.
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For many parents, seeing their children graduate high school is a joyous milestone. But what happens after graduation, especially for individuals with developmental disabilities?

This is the question facing the Luciani family of Dunwoody.

Parents Michael and Sissy Luciani have two sons, Tyler, 22, and Drew, 19, both of whom graduated from Dunwoody High School this past May.

Mrs. Luciani described Tyler as a fun person who is “game for anything and loves to spend time with family and friends,” however because of an intellectual disability, he needs supervision.

“Many times children with developmental disabilities are allowed to attend high school until the age of 22 like Tyler,” Mrs. Luciani said. “During that time, they have a schedule and routine, peers and teachers who help them, but once they graduate it can sometimes feel like no one cares anymore.”

Lack of funding and government programs for individuals with developmental disabilities can be a real problem, she said.

“My hope is that Tyler has a very long and happy life, and that society realizes that shutting these people down and not giving them a chance at age 22 isn’t the solution,” Mrs. Luciani said. “These people are a group of people that can be invested in, learn skills and contribute to society.”

Kathy Keely, executive director with All About Developmental Disabilities, an organization that aims to help families with difficult situations and choices related to developmental disabilities, said parents are often left wondering what to do next for their children.

“Our organization helps provide supportive employment, social skills and we’re trying to get parents to begin focusing on what transitioning from school will be like for their children as early as the fourth-grade,” she said. “We have resources to help parents get prepared to help their children go to college or gain employment, but it takes a number of years to do this and must start early.”

Keely said parents can receive an informative booklet about this issue by visiting the organization’s website at www.aadd.org.

After working with a transitional coach at his high school, Tyler is now involved in a vocational program that integrates him at different job sites each day and helps with job training.

But, Mrs. Luciani said, the program costs the family about $1,800 a month and balancing her son’s continued learning and growth with a budget can be “tricky.”

“These programs can cost a lot of money and it is disappointing and frustrating sometimes, but the great news is Tyler is so happy because he is learning new skills, likes the different jobs sites and co-workers, so it has been a fantastic experience for him,” she said. “We may go broke doing it, but we continue to figure it out because the most important thing to any parent is the happiness of that child.”

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