I am a person with a disability. I have cerebral palsy, and I’m an amputee and a wheelchair user. I am 32 years old and still live at home with my family. My mom was a single mom for nine years, taking care of three kids at the time. She had to become a fierce advocate for me all through my childhood, teen years and young adulthood. It wasn’t until a couple of years ago that I started advocating for myself, doing what she would such as making my doctors’ appointments and telling my aides what I need when I need it.
As I have grown into adulthood, I have had multiple different careers. I started a small group in my area and ran it for 10 years, and then while doing that, I found out I had a passion for writing and now write full time. I believe my mom is a caregiver at heart and loves to feel needed; that’s her love language. When I started doing and accomplishing these things on my own, she didn’t like it because I no longer needed her and I wasn’t doing things the way she would. I believe many parents and caregivers feel this way, especially parents of adults with disabilities, because they’re so used to doing everything for their child. That’s your job as a parent, right? But as your kids grow into adults and start to do things for themselves that you typically would do and they don’t advocate the way you would, you may not know how to react or know whether you should step in or not.
If your teen or adult with a disability, visible or invisible, shows excitement to start advocating for themselves, give them that freedom. Trust them and be willing to let go. It may not be how you would advocate for them, but they are finding their own voice about their disability and nothing is more powerful than that discovery of advocating for themselves. Parents/caregivers, we are capable of doing things for ourselves and that is something you can be proud of — you have raised a very independent adult who has a voice and can make a difference within the disability community and in society as a whole.
Parents/caregivers, you will always be needed in your child’s life, no matter how old they are. Even though your role as their advocate might change and you may not like it at first, you will be amazed what your child is capable of — all because you taught them how to be the advocate they are today and stand up for themselves.