News from INDEx

Lessons Learned

At 22 years old, I realized I was ready to become a mom. At 25, my first child was born. At 27, my second child was born. At 36, I was diagnosed with Autism after both my children were diagnosed.

At the time I didn’t fully understand what being highly impacted by my disability meant. I had a teaching degree and had been successfully working at a school. I was married and had two children. I was a home owner and had been driving since I was 16. I never had Special Education and no one in my family spoke of anything relating to disability.

I had no idea what Autism was and how it applied to my children and I. As I learned about strategies and how to help my kids, I started implementing the same strategies on myself. I read books and articles and found my life up to that point, all the struggles that I experienced, really started to make sense.

I learned I was a not a burden nor was I broken. Growing up, I knew something wasn’t quite right with me, but I never had the language to explain it. I knew I was different and it didn’t feel good. The older I got, the more I tried to blend. I was a square peg trying to wedge myself into a round hole.

I am 47 now and it has been 10 1/2 years since my diagnosis. In that time, I became a single parent and completed two Master of Education degree programs. I raised my children by myself and got remarried. How could I be highly impacted by my disability when I was able to accomplish so much?

To answer that question, I needed to learn about internalized ableism. Being a disappointment was my worst fear. Burnout, exhaustion, and health problems developed from me pushing myself for so long trying not to be a disappointment; not appear “less than” to everyone else. Having a disability doesn’t mean a person cannot accomplish things in life nor does it mean you are “less than”. I am grateful that my children were able to get diagnosed early. They both have grown up with an understanding of their disability and learned at a young age how to advocate for themselves.

I graduated high school in 1993. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was only three years old that year. My children have had this monumental disability rights law in place their whole lives. No one should feel that they need to push themselves to the brink in order to be accepted and respected as a person. (For more information on internalized ableism click here)

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