Handicap This! Team Blog
December 10, 2013 - Click here to view comments
Mourning my 13-and-a-half-year old loyal companion Dakota’s recent passing led me to start thinking about pets’ unconditional love. Well, dogs’ unconditional love. Honestly I’m unable to speak about other animals as pets. Anyways reflecting back on the last 13-and-a-half years I realized what a constant Dakota’s unconditional love remained throughout my own personal growth journey.
Wow, what personal growth I experienced the past 13-and-a-half years! The summer my parents, younger brother Nick, and I packed into my mom’s green 1999 Dodge Caravan to pick up Dakota I resembled a timid teenager with low self-esteem, much thanks to my cerebral palsy (CP). My cerebral palsy left me feeling embarrassed, insecure, and weak.
Heck I practically refused to talk to my classmates about my disability, which I reason in-part caused me to live in social isolation. Such the situation existed when Dakota came along to join our other family dog Markee. Between eighth grade and ninth grade I can count on a single hand how many times I hung out with peers outside school. No exaggeration!
In my teen memoir Off Balanced I believe I call my Game Boy Color “my best friend.” Certainly a demonstration how lonely I felt. Recalling memories from that period in my life a thought came to my mind. “How much harder would life have been without Dakota?”
Markee (who passed away in 2011) deserves recognition too, but Dakota put herself on a special level with her devotion to me. The summer after eighth grade I underwent spinal surgery. Doctors accidently bruised my spine during the operation, leaving my right leg temporarily paralyzed. Consequently I spent three weeks in the hospital and rehab.
Anxiety regarding my whereabouts triggered Dakota to eat away at her tail, information my parents reported during their visits and a fact I confirmed firsthand upon my arrival home. Dakota’s actions demonstrated an unconditional love towards me.
Nothing soothes or comforts better then unconditional love. Over the years I enjoyed tremendous personal growth. Still I encountered setbacks during the process. College saw me embrace my cerebral palsy and finally thrive socially. Yet sophomore year brought me great challenge and frustration.
Relationship hopes shattered when the girl I held a huge crush on rejected me. No longer did my dorm room provide a quiet place, thanks to my very loud suitemates. Invitations from friends to meet in the dining hall for meals at a specific time came less frequently. All those bothersome issues disappeared though when I came home to do laundry and Dakota excitedly greeted me, wagging her tail and jumping on me.
Post-college I chose to pursue freelance writing, a daunting task. Today I’m privileged people seek me out for my services. However in 2009 nobody knew me except family and friends. Hard work and determination earned me my current reputation. Guess who stayed outside my door while I ambitiously built said reputation? Dakota, that’s right.
Fitting Dakota’s final night on earth I joined Tim Wambach and John W. Quinn in hosting the first live #CPChatNow Twitter chat, openly discussing cerebral palsy. Dakota’s unconditional love definitely played a role in my transition from an isolated teenager harboring negative emotions about cerebral palsy to a guiding light in the CP community.
Please share a story about your dog/pet’s unconditional love by commenting below. Thanks for reading.
December 6, 2013 - Click here to view comments
Transitioning from high school to college remains a challenge for any student, but especially students with disabilities. Often times a common mistake can add to the challenging transition– avoiding your college’s Office of Student Disability Services. That topic will receive the spotlight Tuesday, December 17 when Parent to Parent of Georgia presents the webinar “Finding Your Way: Transitioning from High School to College.” In preparation for the upcoming webinar designed for students with disabilities, Handicap This! gladly gives Parent to Parent of Georgia this opportunity to guest post.
When the acceptance letter arrived from my son’s soon-to-be college admissions team, we could barely contain ourselves. Our oldest son, diagnosed on the autism spectrum at age two and a half, was really going to go to college! Little did we know the hoops he was going to have to jump through were only just beginning to pile up! These hoops came mostly due to his refusal to take advantage of the services available to him on-campus through the Office of Student Disability Services.
Taking advantage of the resources available will better equip you to face the exciting challenges of post-secondary education, making your life easier. Problems set in when the student with a disability decides to ignore those resources and chooses instead to set a course without the supports that are designed specifically to assist students with disabilities.
From a parent’s perspective it seems most students with disabilities tend to ignore the resources the Office of Student Disability Services offers. Why is that? If you use a wheelchair for mobility purposes, you could use help securing a first floor dorm room. The same goes for those whose disability is more “hidden,” like our son’s autism diagnosis. Yet college students don’t want to be viewed as “different.”
By the time high school seniors have received their diplomas, they look forward to the next (post-secondary) chapter of their lives. Being different is so high school, right? Many of these students want to start off with all of their freshmen classmates without the appearance of dependency. They simply want to be included in all things (including academic classes) without relying on supports like they have been accustomed to throughout their schooling.
So what happens? Very often grades start to slip and the “catch up” rate is a lot more difficult in college than in high school. Students with disabilities may experience depression, frustration, or even failure as a result of avoiding one of the most obvious (most helpful) solutions, The Office of Student Disability Services.
If you’re looking to prevent this common mistake, you won’t want to miss this webinar called “Finding Your Way: Transitioning from High School to College” on Tuesday, December 17 at 7:00pm EST. Sponsored by Parent to Parent of Georgia, the statewide resource serving families impacted by disabilities and special healthcare needs, this half hour webinar will offer firsthand advice of the DO’s and DON’Ts as a young adult transitioning out of high school into college.
Handicap This!’s own Zachary Fenell will lead off the panel of young adults who will all share their personal stories and advice on transitioning into college. Mark your calendar for December 17th at 7:00pm if you or someone you know could benefit from a lively discussion on the DO’s and DON’Ts of the post-secondary education experience.
Register for the event by clicking here The event is free but we have limited seating. So, register today!
Parent to Parent of Georgia