It has been said that the best way to predict the future is to create it. Have you thought about what the future holds for your child? Where will your child live? Where will he or she work? Spend leisure time? Who will he or she have relationships with? Do you have enough information to make informed decisions? Do you need to learn more?
Thinking about the future can be difficult. In fact, most people fret over what the future holds for their child. This was especially true for me and my family. We were told about segregated programs and activities – the status quo. I visited all of these places. They quickly became my greatest fear.
I didn’t want my daughter to live a separate segregated life. I wanted her to live life as she defined it. I wanted her to be educated with her neighborhood peers. I wanted her to live where and with whom she wanted to live. I wanted her to participate in activities she enjoyed. I wanted her to have friends.
I wanted her to work at a job that complemented her strengths and interests. And I wanted her to be paid at least a minimum wage. And I knew I couldn’t wait until she could make those decisions.
It didn’t take long for me to realize I had to expand my knowledge to achieve the overarching vision. My learning curve was steep and wide. It required me to do a complete change in my way of thinking. Creating a person-centered plan and visiting it often helped shape the change needed.
I no longer saw my daughter as incapable. I focused instead on her wants, needs, strengths, and interests. I learned the value of taking calculated risks. And I was equipped with information, options and a plan.
Now I needed others to see my daughter through my eyes. I needed them to see their role in making our vision a reality. I knew this would require change. And I needed change to be seen as a good thing. That didn’t happen; and before I knew it, I had become “that mom” – an advocate for my child.
Was it easy? NO! Was it worth it? YES!
As I look back, I am thankful for the struggle. Without it, our lives would look vastly different today. The quote, “You don’t know what you don’t know” evokes the question, “But how important is it to know what you don’t know?” My response: For a person with a disability, it is life-changing!
Personal growth and advocating for your child is a natural part of being a parent. Don’t be afraid to rock the boat. Your child’s future may depend on it.