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Dream Plan for Aaron: 2016 (Part 4)

Aaron and 4 generations of family

Aaron and 4 Generations of Family

“If you don’t design your own life plan, chances are you’ll fall into someone else’s plan. And guess what they have planned for you? Not much.” – Jim Rohn

I will soon be celebrating my 66th Birthday. I used to think 66 was old. Now I just think 66 is experienced with a lot of living yet to do.

I wonder what the world will be like when Aaron, Tommy, Ana and even little Isabella turn 66? When I blow out my candles, I’m wishing with all my heart the world will be inclusive. And, we’ll all be part of a caring community who values diversity and individual contributions because together we are stronger.

In Part 1: 1981 Aaron was 6 years old and we outlined a vision of what a happy, successful quality of life would look like for Aaron as an adult. (click here).

In Part 2: 1989, Aaron was 14 years old and we were moving forward. The Plan was updated to take into account the changes in our family, but also the changes in special education, disability services and the world. (click here)

In Part 3: 1998 Aaron is 23 years old and moving out of his parent’s house into his own place with a roommate and 24 hour assistance from caregivers. (Click here)

In Part 4: 2016:

How did we do?

All Dream Plans were built on the concepts of family, community, normalization and inclusion.

Original 1981 Dream Plan for Aaron

Aaron will be educated in a public school with his non-handicapped brother and neighbors. He will have a functional curriculum (see related post) which looks at his needs in his life spaces (vocational, leisure/recreation, domestic, general community functioning). His out-of-school activities will evolve around his family and his own friends, interests and talents. He will be in age-appropriate settings: elementary school ages 5-10; Jr. High ages 11-13, Sr. High ages 14-21, job in the community 21+. He will begin vocational training now, at age 6, so he will be able to perform the job. (If he isn’t able to be a dishwasher, then he can be a dishwasher’s helper, etc… there is some job he will be able to do with success.) At the appropriate time, Aaron will move to a group home to live with others his age. Though dependent in many ways, Aaron will have self-esteem and confidence in the things he does and be a contributor to his family, his extended family, and society.

Current 2010 Dream Plan for Aaron

Aaron was educated in a public school with his brother and the neighbors. After we won our lawsuit with Cincinnati Public Schools, the school district was vindictive and since Tom (Aaron and Tom’s father) was a teacher in the district we decided to move to Lakota School District. Aaron rode the bus to school with the neighborhood kids, he received a functional community based program with some excellent teachers and therapists who used best practice. His out-of-school activities evolved around his family and his own friends, interests and talents. Aaron went to the prom with his friend Jenni, he was on the Jr. High Track and Cross Country team where he earned school letters, he rode horses, swam, went to camp and took summer vacations with his family. He went to family reunions, holiday parties and the high school basketball and football games. He was on an inclusive bowling team and made some friends with the Baseball Team players. He was in the Key Club and had a circle of friends. He received extended school year services. He attended graduation (see related article) and had a celebration for all his family and friends. Aaron went to age-appropriate schools and had a job coach to help him in his job at the police station (vacuuming) and amusement park (watering plants) when he left school. When Aaron was 23 he moved into a house with another person (though he was older) and they have lived together for over 12 years. Aaron is still totally dependent but he has self-esteem and confidence in the things he does. He is loved and is a contributor to his family which now includes a niece and sister-in-law as well as his extended family of grandma and cousins. Aaron votes and is a consumer in our society.

Each one of these sentences is filled with years of work and advocacy. There are a whole lot of buts, buts, and more buts that happened when Aaron turned 21 that we didn’t foresee at age 6….

But considering the mountain we climbed to achieve all of the goals—WE DID IT!

1981 Dream Plan for Tommy

Tommy will be educated in a public school with his handicapped brother and neighbors. He will have a functional curriculum which looks at the needs in his life spaces, (academic, vocational, leisure/recreation, domestic, general community functioning). His out-of-school activities will evolve around his family, his own friends, interests, and talents. He will be in age-appropriate settings. He will make a career choice and pursue training (vocational, university, apprentice…). At a time he decides is appropriate, Tommy will move to his own home, probably marry and begin his own family. He will have self-esteem and confidence in the things he does and be a contributor to his family, his extended family and society.

Current 2010 Dream Plan for Tommy

Tommy went to school with his brother and neighbors. He had a functional curriculum that met his needs. He participated in wrestling, theater, cross-country and track, he went to all the school functions. He was in age-appropriate settings and shadowed adults in careers he was interested in. He began a couple career directions and graduated from Morehead State University with a job in the telecommunications field. He is now a Radio Frequency Engineer working on the new G4 systems. His work experience includes setting up the telecommunications for the Super Bowl and NASCAR events. His bride, Ana, is from Brazil and now they have a baby girl who is 18 months old. Tommy sees Aaron and his extended family every week. He is remodeling his house with his friend. He has self-esteem and confidence in the things he does and is a contributor to his family, his extended family and society.

Tommy is on his own. He has his own responsibilities and we help him every way we can. He is interdependent only because he wants to be. Now he makes his own dream plans for himself and his family. Here is a related article about Tommy and Aaron (Click here)

Aaron… well another post we’ll talk about life after age 22 and adult services.


How are Aaron and Tommy’s dream plans different? At age 6 and age 22 and age 35? age 66? How did they turn out? Were they much different than the plans your parents made for you? Much different than you make for yourself? What would you say is the lesson?

Keep Climbing: Onward and Upward
All the best,


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37 Responses to “Dream Plan for Aaron: 2016 (Part 4)”

  • Morgan says:

    I really enjoyed reading this. Your story is so raw and inspirational. People with disabilities deserve all the same opportunities as everyone else, and it’s very refreshing to read about how people are overcoming obstacles. Congratulations on all that you have gotten through!

  • Stephanie Archdeacon says:

    This was amazing! I am so glad i got to take a step back and read this! It made me think of my personal life as a diabetic and how i have plans to do things that “normal” kids get to do! Yes, just like Aaron and Tommy their are differences between me and the “normal” kids but hey as long as you keep trying that becomes the most rewarding part. Even if you don’t always succeeded, just getting the chance do live out your plan in life is better than nothing! Just like my dad always says, “Life is like building a house. No matter how hard you try that house will never be perfect, but the harder you try to get that house to be perfect the better the house will be!” You might not always be perfect at your life plans, but as long as you try the better the rewarding feeling will be(: Keep on being strong!

    • mary says:

      “Keep on being strong” is a terrific mantra. Your dad is right Stephanie, the house will never be perfect, but we have to keep trying. Thanks for sharing your personal story. You have worked hard and overcome a lot.

  • Danielle Moore says:

    I love this article! I think it is great that you came up with a plan for both of the boys. Yes I am sure there were changes along the way and things that didn’t go as planned but it all worked out in the end. I think it is great that Aaron now lives somewhere besides home! That amazes me! This shows how much motivation both boys had to reach their dreams and goals!

  • Morgan Johnson says:

    I enjoyed this article about Aaron. I think it is awesome how you all stuck with your plan in making sure that he had the same rights as everyone else. I believe that every human deserves to be treated that way. Sometimes life can throw you curve balls, but I like the way you guys stuck with what you guys believe in. Aaron has a purpose on this earth and I am glad that he was able to be treated like he deserves.

    • Mary E. Ulrich says:

      curve balls is a good way of putting it. Guess we just need more batting practice, eh? We have to keep believing things will get better. What else is there?

  • Lacy Morris says:

    I enjoyed reading about their dreams because if I didn’t know Aaron has a disability, I wouldn’t have known. Of course there are differences where there needs to be but not everybody is the same! Everybody should have dreams and goals with the attitude nothing can hold them back. Just because Aaron needed further education after his brother doesn’t mean he can’t do it. He is doing what needs to be done to achieve the goals. Of course parents are going to have ideas of what they want for their children but everybody should do what in the end is best for them and will make THEM happy.

    • Mary E. Ulrich says:

      Thanks Lacy. We are lucky Aaron is so easy going. He really does roll with life. When he graduated HS and lost the majority of his support system (there is no mandate for adult services) he has had to move forward. I wish he could tell us his dreams. It’s hard to try and figure it out–but you do the best you can.

  • Hannah Marshall says:

    I LOVE the perseverance you show and the commitment and love you show towards your children. Having those goals and being able to change and adapt them as life happens is something to be very proud of. I aspire to be like you!

    • Mary E. Ulrich says:

      Hannah call me anytime if I can help. You give me hope for the future and for Alex. I know you mom is so proud. 🙂

  • Mary says:

    Thanks Jessica, Aaron and Tommy have accomplished so much. I am so proud of them And dreams–they are all we have aren’t they?

  • Jessica Osterday says:

    I think it is awesome to see how much of Aaron’s dream plan was accomplished from 1981 until now. From reading this I can get an idea of how much he has grown and succeeded as a person. I can also see how involved he is in his community, just like his brother, Tommy. Despite Aaron’s disability, he has accomplished so much and it is great to see how similar the 2 dream plans were between your sons. Though there were slight differences between them, there were so many similarities. Aaron’s disability is just a small hindrance of the things he can overcome as a whole. This article shows that nothing can put down someone’s dreams.

  • Ian Silver says:

    I noticed that the dream plans that differed the most did not depend on whose plans they were but rather when those plans were made. For example, in 1981 both Aaron’s and Tommy’s plans were very vague and constraint and in 2010, both had very elaborate plans. Also, even though Aaron was going to need more help and Tommy was going to be able to do more things, their plans are very similar

    • Mary says:

      You’re partially right Ian. When I made the first one, I thought I was shooting for the moon and I would be lucky if I achieved even part of the plan. By the last plan, School was finished and I knew a lot more about what was best practice.

      I don’t know if I’ll ever achieve Aaron’s plan. but we keep trying and trying and trying.

  • Nichole says:

    I love that the Dream Plans for Tommy and Aaron are so similar, they differ where need be, but the overall dream and goal is the same. It sounds like both Aaron and Tommy have achieved their Dream plans with great accomplishments! I really like how inclusive the Dream plans are; they don’t differ by extremes because they don’t need to.

    • Mary E. Ulrich says:

      The Dream plan changed over time but the plan really gave me a vision of what I needed to do. It really was a changing point in my life. Now that the guys are both adults it’s harder to have a definite plan–now it’s more just do your best and let them lead the way. 🙂 Probably your mom says the same thing 🙂

  • My impression of Aaron and Tommy’s dream plans is that they are the same in that you want them to succeed and be as independent as possible, yet they’re different because they have to be because well, everyone is different. While Tommy and Aaron both attended the same public school for primary schooling and high school, Tommy’s plan incorporated further education thereafter, while Aaron was going to enter the workforce. I think each of their resulting lifestyles exceed the expectations many parents have for their children. Aaron, though still dependent on some services, has moved out, which is more than many parents can say about their grown children. Tommy, seems to have “made it big” in the field he’s working in, which again, is something many people aspire to do. These plans are hardly different from my own plans, and from many of the plans of the average american dreamer. I think the lesson here is to dream big and don’t set limits for yourself. I think its better to try and fail a couple times, then to never try at all. Also, it’s OK to be dependent on people sometimes; that’s what family is there for, to help you when you need it, and for you to return the favor.
    Madison Jasper recently posted..The Race Toward Inclusion| Do you see it?

    • Mary E. Ulrich says:

      Madison, I love all your comments. You got it! I am so proud of both my sons. The same way, I’m sure, your parents are proud of you. Bet they would be proud of your response too. It shows a lot of maturity and deep thought. 🙂

  • cheryl merritt says:

    I admire your setting goals and persevering in the face of adversity. After my fight with the school system, I gave up and homeschooled. Your open communication should be a big help to other parents – and hopefully some educators.

    • Mary E. Ulrich says:

      Thanks for your comment Cheryl. It’s so sad that 30 years after the Education for All Handicapped Children Act was passed (now IDEA) that parents and the schools still can’t work it out. Your child was lucky because mom kept the vision alive. Best wishes to you.

  • Gary Jordon says:

    Well Mary you really did do a super job. You had plans and goals. Those worked well for you and your troop. To alleviate your understandable nerves I will let you in on a secret that my mother apparently had. My mother never had a specific plan simple an orientation that informed her that somehow I had a purpose in life even if she didn’t know what that was.

    From my study of ancient prophesy especially the Mayan Calendar I don’t anyone is going to be able to plan super long term in the detail you did anymore. I do believe that you can have some orientation as to what your values are and some notion of what is viable and what is not but that may be the extent of such planning.

    As for the vindictive school district it appears that when you upset their perfect world they didn’t have the inner confidence to find acceptance of the change.

    On Aaron becoming a senior citizen some day that is going to be in a very different world than the one we live in today. The best you can do now I guess is trust the Creator and the solid foundation you laid for both your boys.

    Peace Mary

    • Mary E. Ulrich says:

      Thanks Gary, I think your mom followed her instincts and she is right, your life does have a purpose. As for Aaron becoming a senior citizen–wow, that thought alone gave me chills. But again you are right. It will be a different world.

  • Carol Alexander says:

    Mary, you have self-esteem and confidence in the things you do and are a contributor to your family, your extended family, society, and heaven. With love and admiration, Carol

    • Mary E. Ulrich says:

      Wow Carol. What a nice thing to say.

      You’ve done great things for your family too. We go back a long time. Love you too. Mary

  • I would say the lesson is to have a goal and a lesson plan to get there that is flexible enough to deal with the things that come up on the way. The difference is that Tommy is able to become independent or interdependent while for Aaron, it is trickier as he will not be able to be truly independent, but can still contribute, and have confidence and self-esteem. What are the next goals, Mary?
    Alison Golden recently posted..The Holidays Are Upon Us – Do You Do Too Much At This Time Of Year

    • Mary E. Ulrich says:

      Darn Alison, I was hoping I could slip this one in and noone would notice that I don’t have goals for the next couple years. *shakes head*

      I tried hard to think of how I could project into the next 20 years for Aaron. I couldn’t do it. I’ll have to keep thinking, though part of it is I am just trying to live in the present. Since there is no mandate for services over age 21–we just take one problem, one victory at a time.

      The good news is Aaron is such a trooper.
      I am really proud of both Tommy and Aaron.*tears in eyes* They are still my babies.

  • Becke Davis says:

    Mary – the last 35 or so years have really been an uphill battle for you. You deserve a Good Mother Award!

    • Mary E. Ulrich says:

      Thanks Becke, but unfortunately the after 22 years are going to be even harder. It was nice to think of what we have accomplished. Damn, we did a lot!

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