One of the best things my parents ever did for me was to teach me to be my own advocate as well as being a great pair of advocates on my behalf. My parents made sure I was helping around the house, taking care of pets, getting schoolwork done on a timely schedule, and involved in activities like swimming and summer camps.
I remember my mom, a pediatrician, would leave for work on the weekends, and leave lists of chores for my sister and I to finish while she was away. If I asked for help with something, she would say, “Pretend I’m not here, and you try first, and then I will help you.”
Having this structure and expectation of at least trying something, even if it proved difficult, helped me develop confidence and a can-do attitude. I was also educated about my differences at a very young age so that I could better understand them, as I got older. This helped me become more comfortable with myself and better able to articulate my needs and challenges to others.
I may not have liked having to struggle with putting socks on at 10 or 12 for at least 10 minutes, but today that attitude has lead me to becoming more independent and far more able to do things on my own.
I think there is beauty in challenging a child, especially a child with a disability. However, you have to know his or her limits and make the task fun. I think there is a vast difference in challenging a child versus challenging him or her until they break. I feel really proud when I get up in the morning, make my own bed, get a shower, make breakfast, catch the bus to work with my service dog, and go about my day just like anyone else! I want you to know that as parents and professionals, you too, can shape a child’s future and teach them that they have the power to make their own decisions and live their own lives the way they would like to live them.
Resources: All are available through the Library at the Indiana Institute on Disability and Community.
Thanks for reading!