By NANCY FRAZIER O'BRIEN
Most parents approach their child's 21st birthday with a sense of celebration for the exciting possibilities ahead and a dash of apprehension. But for the parents of severely disabled children, who lose many government-funded services at 21, it's a whole different story.
The Bolton family relaxes together at a July 4 picnic at St. Vincent's Adult Special Needs Services in Stratford, Conn. From left are Deacon Tim Bolton; Matthew, 13; Meagan, 26; Tim's mother, Alice Bolton; Mary Ellen Bolton, and Kaitlin, 22. Missing from the photo is son Tim, who lives in Phoenix.
"Even hearing and blind services go away when you turn 21," said Deacon Tim Bolton, coordinator of pastoral care at St. Vincent's Medical Center in Bridgeport, Conn., and the father of 22-year-old Kaitlin, who has Wolf-Hirschhorn syndrome. "What, at 21 they're suddenly not blind anymore?"
But St. Vincent's Special Needs Services in Trumbull, Conn., has filled a need for the Boltons and many other families as their special needs children transition into adulthood.
The Changing Images program offered by St. Vincent's for special needs adults "is the only one of its kind in the entire Ascension Health system of (131) hospitals," said Raymond Baldwin Jr., president and chief executive of St. Vincent's Special Needs Services.