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Thursday, 9 June 2016

Bloo Attempts Advice #1

"Self-esteem comes from who you have in your life. How you were raised. What you struggled with as a child."
Halle Berry

Today I'm doing something new and as such I've been a little nervous about it. I've never done an advice post like this before but when I got this question from the lovely Alisa Cook in response to a Facebook post asking for questions for my Q&A I knew it deserved a post of it's own. I would like to give a little disclaimer that all advice given is personal and obviously unprofessional. There is no one size fits all answer when it comes to this stuff but this is what I feel like would have helped me. I urge my readers and particularly my followers with disabilities to please leave their thoughts in the comments. Give Alisa more to go on than just what I can offer.

"My daughter is eight and will be nine in December. She has Cerebral Palsy. She walks with a walker most of the time and periodically uses a wheelchair. Her speech is also hard to understand. She's now at an age where she's starting to really realise that she's different and it bothers her. Do you have any tips, books for me to read, advice columns etc to help me help her?  I'm also not sure how to answer the rude questions people ask in public. You know, the stranger at the store that thinks it's okay to ask, "What's wrong with her legs?" So basically I have a million questions about helping develop her self esteem as we head into the puberty/mean girl phase of life/school. Thanks in advance."



I'd like to say that while I have never shared your daughter's disability I have been a young disabled girl. I know the preteen and teenage years can be a tough time and as such it's amazing that you're conscious of that and want to support your daughter through these years the best you can. I don't think it really ever occurred to my mum that I might need extra support and so we never really talked about anything I might have been feeling during those years. I mean, it's no fault of my mum's. She was there when I fell apart but I didn't often fall apart because I learned to handle things on my own. I'm still like that to this day.

Communication is so important. I'd urge you to try and keep an open dialogue with your daughter as much as you can. I know it's not easy to pry feelings out of someone and I'm in no way saying you should do that with your daughter. You don't want to make her clam up or feel suffocated. Just make sure she knows that the lines of communication are there. For me personally when things got difficult there was really nothing anyone could do or say to make me feel better. I just needed someone to listen. I needed to vent. Sometimes that's all you can do. You can't fix things. Really there's nothing to be fixed. And ultimately your daughter has to come to that conclusion on her own. That's how it is for all of us. My mum could tell me I'm perfect until she was blue in the face but I had to figure that out myself. I mean we all know our parents are biased anyway. Have faith in your daughter that she'll work out how amazing she is, even if it takes her a little while to get there. In that sense she's no different than most young girls. We all have a journey just some of us have more of society's obstacles to tackle.

I also can't stress how important her friendships will be to her and urge you to encourage her friendships as much as possible. Make them as accessible as possible. I would also recommend trying to make sure she has a mixture of disabled and non-disabled peers. It was very important to my parents for me to be involved in non-disabled society as much possible. Growing up all my closest friends were non-disabled. Through no fault of my parents but more so society at large I ended up fostering some internalised ableism. Something I'm embarrassed and pretty disgusted about to this day but I feel it's important to bring up in this post. I ended up being very reluctant to be involved in the disabled community. In a strange way I felt like it was like admitting to myself I wasn't the same as my non-disabled friends. I know that's ridiculous now but that's how I felt to my young and ignorant self. However when I hit around thirteen or fourteen I started to feel a disconnect with my non-disabled friends which only grew over the next few years. By that stage, when my parents realised just how important it probably was for me to be more involved with other's with disabilities that would share certain feelings I was having, I also felt a disconnect with the disabled community. I'd already fostered that internalised ableism. All that was my doing. I cut myself off from people. I felt like my friendships with non-disabled people aren't accessible anymore and I didn't have anybody around me that might be able to relate to that. That was one of the loneliest most isolated periods of my life and I wouldn't wish that on anybody. These days I can't value my friendships enough, both those with non-disabled people and also those with disabilities.

Lastly, there is no right or wrong answer when it comes to dealing with intrusive questions. It really comes down to your personal boundaries and what you and your daughter are comfortable with. Maybe this is something you could discuss with her. Find out her feelings on it. You don't owe anybody an answer but it can also be a great opportunity for education. However, I also know at times I hate my mum telling people my medical history. And I hate when people talk to her like I'm not there. I've also been known to make up ridiculous stories as to why I can't walk. Maybe you two could have some fun with that! My personal favourite is mauled by monkeys... but I guess that's not so funny now after the gorilla tragedy.

I really hope this post as been at all helpful to you and your daughter. I wish you all the best for her future and I'm confident she'll do just fine with such a caring mother behind her. With a good support network we can get through most things.

2 comments:

  1. I'd definitely agree that communication is key. From a very young age my Mum was extremely open with me about my disability and how I was different from others but this didn't mean I was any less of a person. She always stressed that my disability was not the only part of me and she encouraged me to focus on things I enjoyed like reading. I understood my condition well and knew why I looked different from my peers at school and so when I was bullied because of it I knew that they were just being ignorant and this helped me to try and ignore it. Like Sara nearly all of my friends growing up were not disabled and whilst this never bothered me at the time I know as I've got older I've benefited a lot from connecting with both disabled and non disabled people. I think if I had been able to talk to someone with the same condition as me throughout junior and secondary school that would have helped me a lot. Hope that helps in any way! x
    www.shonalouise.com

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  2. Whilst I don't class myself as disabled, I was born with a club foot and had meningitis. Therefore I have noticeable scaring and am unable to have much function in my right foot. My mum always told me that people are different - everyone is. That whilst people are different, they are good at different things. I was always encouraged to try my best at everything.
    On people asking questions. When I was at high school my best friend made a rumour that I was attacked by a shark to stop people asking. Now I will quite happily answer anyone's questions, because education is important.
    One piece of advice. Try to get as much stuff customised as possible. I wear a splint on my leg all the time and being allowed to have some cool patterns on it made me so much more comfortable wearing it. If she sees it as something cool to wear or have that others don't it becomes much more what she wants.
    And she is never alone and neither are you
    Kate xx

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I read and welcome all comments and appreciate them greatly even if I may not answer all of them. I love hearing my reader's thoughts and interacting with you. Thanks!

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