Hi! My name is Abdi! I am 18. I have a disability called cerebral palsy. This disability causes my muscles to stiffen up and gives me back pain, which is why I have a power wheelchair to assist me wherever I want to go.
I’m going into my fifth year of high school to upgrade some of my courses like English. I really enjoy writing stories and news articles. I love to exercise in school and have a great time hanging out with my friends.
Here I’m going to share my tips for parents who have kids with disabilities. I’m going to talk about how you can make sure your kids are safe, happy and as independent as possible.
First, I am going to tell you about three things my parents did that have improved my self-confidence and ability to be independent.
Number one, my parents learned about, and helped me to get, the equipment and supports that I need. My parents supported me in applying for the Ontario Disability Support Program.
The ODSP helps people with disabilities who are in financial need pay for living expenses like food and housing. My parents contacted the government and helped me to set up meetings to follow through on my application. If parents are unsure about how to apply for this funding, I strongly recommend contacting your social worker or asking another health professional at your children’s rehab centre.
Number two, my parents have started letting me take more responsibility for my actions. For example, I’m now able to book WheelTrans on my own, where before my mom would speak on my behalf. This is important because as your kids get older, they want to take control of their lives. I feel proud when I do things on my own. I want to be able to look after myself and show my parents that living on my own is a realistic goal.
The final thing my parents have done well is show me a lot of love. That really encouraged me to do my best and to believe that I could set my mind to anything. My parents always were there when I needed help with something. Your kids can probably tell by what you do and how you talk to them that you love them. But I think it’s a good idea if you tell your child every day that you love them.
Now, I’d like to talk about three things I wish my parents had done to help me feel confident while having a disability.
To start with, sometimes my parents make it hard for me to go out with my friends. They may not take me seriously when I tell them I want to go out or they may not let me go because they’re worried about me.
Having friends in my life is amazing. It’s like having siblings but they don’t live with you. I have the coolest friends that I know. They make me laugh and make me happy to come to school every day.
It’s hard to have fun with them after school, though, because my parents are too cautious. They don’t always feel comfortable letting me make my own decisions when it comes to my social life. Think about how you can support your child so that they can see their friends regularly.
Next, I sometimes feel like my parents don’t think that I’m going to have a career or be able to continue my education after high school. While they ask my siblings, who don’t have disabilities, about what they’re going to do when they graduate, they don’t ask me. It makes me feel like they think I’m going to stay home for the rest of my life. But the ultimate goal for me is to live independently. My parents have a hard time dealing with the fact that I want to live on my own. I want my parents to know I still love them, no matter what, and I’m not trying to disown them.
So please, talk to your kids and teens about what they want to do when they grow up and finish school. Help them dream.
Finally, I sometimes feel that my parents overreact around me, especially when it comes to my wheelchair driving. Sometimes they say I can’t drive my chair, and that I crash into walls a lot.
Occasionally, my body is in so much pain in the mornings that I do crash. I can’t help it. But it makes me feel upset when my parents panic about accidents. And that makes me more likely to have an accident, because I’m anxious about what they’ll say.
So parents, as much as you can, try to remain calm and don’t panic with your child. Encourage your kids to ask for help if they need it.
I hope you enjoyed my story. My message to kids with disabilities is that their disability shouldn’t stop them from their dreams and aspirations. Keep on fighting and never give up. Stay positive—that attitude always helped me work hard and become a better person.
As parents reading this, I want you to take a look at your child and smile and tell them you love them. To me that is the best way to stand alongside your child with a disability and to make sure that your child is safe, happy and as independent as possible.