***PLEASE VOTE DAILY UNTIL 12/8 AND SHARE ***
My daughter is 22 years old and graduating December 15th from North Carolina State University, Summa Cum Laude. She lives in an off campus apartment and belongs to a sorority. Her dad and I are very proud of her. Sounds pretty typical for a college student, right?
What you don't know from my description is that she has spastic quadriplegic cerebral palsy and cannot walk, talk, feed or dress herself, or even go to the bathroom by herself. She uses a power wheelchair and augmentative communication device to speak. She has personal care attendants to help her with her daily living activities.
When she was born, I spent a lot of time asking myself, "why me?" When your child is born with a disability you lose the dream of the child you were expecting. Everyone thinks their child will grow up to be something special, maybe a football player, cheerleader, or maybe even president. Suddenly, your child's future is a big question mark. It's a dark and scary place to be.
I was a manager for a fortune 500 company when my daughter was born and being a stay at home mom was not something I had envisioned for myself. However, my daughter was soon doing eight different therapy sessions a week and there wasn't really time for me to work. I felt that if I worked hard enough on her, she would be able to overcome her difficulties. Over time, the "why me," evolved into "why NOT me?" as I realized that my daughter would have the benefits of a financially secure college educated family with good health insurance and the time to devote to advocating for her to receive everything she needed.
My daughter was included in regular classrooms despite her physical needs for additional supports. Thank goodness that computer technology was expanding by leaps and bounds at this time and she could use it to level the playing field for her scholastically. Every year was a transition and she had to prove that she belonged in regular education and could do the work if given the appropriate supports.
I also learned very early that the best way to heal myself was to give back to my community. I have volunteered and raised money for several disability related organizations geared towards helping families of children with disabilities. I truly believe that my life's purpose is to showcase kids like my daughter and help them achieve their highest potential, whatever that may be. Luckily New Voices Foundation came along and has graciously given me a platform to do so.
Over the past 10 years, New Voices has provided hundreds of hours of training to those who work with kids like my daughter so that they can be the very best at what they do. New Voices has also provided hundreds of thousands of dollars of equipment to our local schools systems to help them meet the needs of these very complex children. New Voices advocates for these children to ensure they get the resources they need. New Voices is literally a voice for children who have none.
This is my giving story. Please think of my daughter at 2:00 p.m. EST on December 15th when she dons her cap and gown and rolls across the stage to accept her diploma. New Voices is working to ensure that she is not just the exception but the norm for kids like her.