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Independence: Disbility won’t stop you

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Independence is a part of growing up. It is so vital that we gain the skills to be able to take care of ourselves, and make our own decisions. It is one of the first steps we take to help ensure we can make our own choices in our lives. We all need to follow our own goals and dreams. I was born with a disability; I know the challenges of life. I don’t live in a world full of chocolate puppies and rainbows. I know how adversity feels, but failure never stops me from getting what I want, and neither does my disability. We all have things to over come in life, and most of the time they are unexpected, and for people with disabilities those 

challenges can be even greater. Many times people with disabilities don’t get to experience what it is like to have the chance to be independent. It is extremely important that parents of children with disabilities give their child the tools to experience independent, and maximize their potential so that they can follow their own destiny and live meaningful life.

Independence is a step by step process that allows someone to understand their place in the world. From time to time we all struggle with decisions we have to make. I don’t think most people go out of their way to make bad decisions. Often times we are scared to make the hard decision and we decided to choose the path of least resistance. But when it comes to helping your child, you cannot choose fear over their well being.

The first thing you must realize is that you’re not alone in making these tough decisions. 41.2 million People in America have some level of disability. They represent 15 percent of the civilian non-institutionalized population 5 and older. 6 percent of children 5 to 15 have disabilities. 12 percent of people 16 to 64 have disabilities. 41 percent of adults 65 and older have disabilities according to the 2007 American Community Survey.

Now I know that there are various disabilities, and with those disabilities come unique needs, and special circumstances. However, you cannot limit what your child can do based on the unknown. Sheltering your child does more harm than good. It might seem ok in the short term, but in the long term it is making your child depend on you for every aspect of their life.

As parents you are your child’s protector and provider but one thing you cannot be is immortal. Since your children are young now is the time you need to begin to help them to become independent. You have to be able to look twenty years down the road, to the unknown. But wouldn’t you sleep better at night knowing you’ve given them the chance to know what independence is so in twenty years they have the opportunity to make their own choices?

Most people know the story of Helen Keller. She was deaf and blind. Yet she went on to have a great impact on our society through the obstacles she over came. These are a few things she accomplished: She got a college degree, became a prolific author, and was a disability rights activist. That is pretty good, not for a deaf or blind woman, but for anyone. But what gets lost in her story is that someone allowed her to be herself. Someone gave her the support she needed to succeed. Someone refused to let Helen’s fear overtake her hope. If it wasn’t for Anne Sullivan Helen’s teacher, Helen Keller would have lived her whole life in isolation, and died without doing anything. Anne Sullivan began to teach Helen with a doll that some children had made for her. By spelling "d-o-l-l" into the child's hand, Anne Sullivan hoped to teach her to connect objects with letters. Helen quickly learned to form the letters correctly and in the correct order, but did not know she was spelling a word, or even that words existed. In the days that followed she learned to spell a great many more words in this uncomprehending way

You can have the same impact on your child. We have grand ideals that freedom must be epic but in reality freedom entails the small things in life. Being able to drive, make friends, and get a job, and choose what you want, when you want it.

When you begin to help your child to become independent their self confidence will grow. There is nothing wrong with staring out slow. Here are a few things you can do to help start the process of teaching your child independence. One effective way to teach independence is to give your child the responsibility of chores.  Chores should be age appropriate. A nice way to teach kids responsibility is through caring for a pet. By getting them a pet, you teach them that this living creature depends on them to stay alive.

Let your children make their own small choice and then deal with their consequences. Talk about responsibility with your children and show them responsibility by modeling that behavior after yourself. As you and your child become more comfortable with their independence you can allow them to experience more and more.

As your child begins to be a little more independent they will begin to have more self confidence. As there self confidence grows, you will begin to feel more at ease. This is when you need to start to focus on maximizing their potential. Maybe they will start to have new interest. This is when they will need your support and guidance.

Everyone will have different needs, desires and motivations. But once your child understands they are allowed to experiences new things you open their world up to infinite possibilities. What you need to realize is that your child may surpass your wildest dreams. By allowing them to make their own decisions and then supporting them you are giving them the necessary tools to enable them to have success.

You cannot compare your child to any one else. Everyone is unique. We all have strengths and weaknesses. You need to find unique ways to motivation your child. You know their hopes and dreams better than anyone, and now you need to help them achieve their goals. True motivation comes from finding the ideal point of being challenged.

If they struggle with school subjects, look elsewhere for his passions. Pay attention to whatever makes your child perk up. Is it animals? Plants? Music? Art? I think sporting activities are a great way for kids with disaiblties to meet new people, have people cheer for them and for them to gain confidence.

The point of this article really comes down to one thing, quality of life. It’s the quality of someone’s life that matters. We all have hopes and dreams. But wishing gets you nowhere. Hoping for the best won’t teach your child anything. Only by helping them will they become independent and maximizing their potential will they be able to make sound choice for their lives. 

Anything in life worth having takes discipline and hard work. The things that come easy we take for granted. Most people don’t learn much about themselves when they are at the top, only when they struggle at the bottom do we find out what we are made of. My parents allowed me to be independent, and to make my own choice, sometimes I was successful other times I failed. They encouraged me to try as hard as I could, and too be the person I wanted to be, even if they disagreed.

I’ll  will close my article by telling a story of how my parents allowed me to be independent which led to me maximizing my potential. One time my mom looked out the window and saw me and my sister riding the teeter totter, we were 5 or 6 years old. We were laughing and of course my mom thought it was cute. She went to do some housework and then came back after 10 minutes. Instead of me riding on the teeter totter I was riding underneath it with my head about 1 inch off the ground. Her fist instinct was to run out and yell “Brian be careful”, but she didn’t. She allowed me to be a kid, allowed me to have fun, even if I may get hurt. Why, because that is what love is. She was more interested in me enjoying life, than she was of me being scared to live. That is how I was raised. To always try my best. I have failed a lot, I’ve made unwise decisions but I was allowed to choose things for myself, to pursue what I wanted, and to maximize all the things I was good at.

I’m not the standard for being independent, maybe I can do more than your child, maybe I can do less, but I do as much as I can for myself everyday. Even if I do something and the world says is lame, or that doesn’t matter compared to what they’ve done, then the whole world is wrong, because I did something that mattered to me. We live in an era where people want to be inspired, they need to be inspired, hopefully by reading this you and your child can inspire others parents to help their children become independent and that is a legacy that will live on when your child has a happy and prosperous life.



Brian Nestor