James continues to have the opportunity to write for the ECNV newsletter. Its a great organization committed to helping people with disabilities gain independence. The prompt for this newsletter was: “A lot of times we see parents with disabilities shelter their children from the world, instead of encouraging them to follow their dreams. Their intentions are to protect them, but this often results in the children not being able to live up to their full potential. For this newsletter, please describe your experience with this scenario and what kind of side effects can come from sheltering persons with disabilties as they mature”.
“Helping Hand, Not Hand Holding”
My experience with my parents has been one of growth and evolution. I needed a teacher, and they provided. I needed a companion, and they provided. I needed nutritional support, and they provided. Throughout my life my parents have provided me with all of my opportunities. I am appreciative of all their support, and now I am ready to be more independent. I would like to care for myself. I see my future including a meaningful career and independent living. Because of all their support, I have the ability to freely express my thoughts to them through my letter board. I have been able to share with them my goals to be an independent adult. I know it will not be easy, but they are supporting me in this journey.
Although I can’t say they have sheltered me, because I have been able to see and experience many new things, I think my parents have protected me from failure to a certain extent. I think this type of parental protection happens in many cases. For anyone seeking independence, failure is part of the journey. When parents take the possibility of failure away, even with the best intentions, an opportunity to learn and mature is denied. Many adults want to make life easier for the next generation. However, failing is a main ingredient in the recipe for success. In the case of young adults with disabilities, we are seen as fragile and helpless, not to mention incapable. At times, believing in myself feels impossible. I can imagine that at times it can be scary to let your child fail, especially when you have been providing and protecting them for so long. However, for those of us with limited abilities in speech, motor movement, or emotional regulation, we need to become strong individually and learn to count on ourselves. We also want to feel proud and accomplished, and even disappointed some times. These feeling are ones we can own and truly value.
My parents have always been willing and able to give me what I needed. Now, what I need from them is to let me provide for myself. I am still a teenager who wishes for freedom to do as I please, but each day I need a team of people to help me care for myself. Next year, each one of the adults in my life will only be around for minimal support. Each one of my tasks will be done by me, solely. However, in order for this goal of mine to become a reality, a lot of work on my part and also my parents and support team will be required. It will take a new mindset. Currently, I let my parents facilitate things around me. I will have to allow them to take a step back. I will have to experience failure and learn from it. This will include everything from everyday tasks, to communication, to transportation. I will have to be uncomfortable. I am starting to realize that growth happens when we are uncomfortable and open to learning from those experiences. As children, just as much as our parents, we like to stay in our comfort zone. In order to reach our true potential, we need to be open to change and our parents need to let us be uncomfortable. I am thankful for my parents being so aware and invested in my future. They believe in me, that is the best gift I can receive from them.