“Never be afraid to raise your voice for honesty and truth and compassion against injustice and lying and greed. If people all over the world… would do this, it would change the earth.”
– William Faulkner
Since my daughter’s birth 22 years ago, my husband and I have advocated tirelessly for her. While she was in growing in my belly, we had hopes and dreams for her despite the fact that we knew she would be born with a disability. Her diagnosis did not impede us; it just required paving a unique path for her.
We wanted to provide Gabrielle with limitless opportunities in an inclusive environment throughout her lifetime, allowing for her to learn, play and grow with others of all abilities. Our goal was and continues to be for her to thrive, flourish and to maximize her potential by having the best quality of life possible. But our journey has not been easy.
We’ve had to work on our advocacy skills from her first childcare experience where the director informed us that she “shouldn’t take those kinds of children,” to doctors, schools, camps and currently, adult day programs who see only her stroller, not the awesome, inspiring, capable young woman she is. To other families on a similar journey, I have this to say:
- We cannot always influence or persuade others to come along side us. We need to learn when it’s time to move on or walk away.
- Not every battle will be won, so choose which ones are non-negotiable.
- Turn challenges into opportunities.
- Don’t let your anger get the best of you. By being objective and composed, I’ve been able to effectively advocate for Gabrielle to help plan the best future and quality of life for her.
- Find allies and like-minded individuals willing to help and support your family.
I cannot allow others to determine Gabrielle’s future, especially when they cannot perceive her strengths and want to limit her options based on those perceptions. I have been given the awesome privilege to be her parent and with that is the responsibility to fight for her and be her voice for as long as she needs me. If I don’t advocate for her, who will?