On my Tray of Bliss today is a vow to help my disabled son find some new friends.
Mr A has Cerebral Palsy. He's had it from birth and this means that he is totally dependent upon others for the necessities of life. He can't eat, be toileted, stand, sit or roll over in bed without intervention.
That said, we've always done our darndest to make his life as 'ordinary' as possible. He communicates well which is a true blessing, so can voice his needs and wants clearly.
He's now 20 years old and after many, many years of battles with bureaucrats who would have things otherwise, we've managed to negotiate an independent living situation for him, with government funds to pay carers to look after him.
He now has his own unit, just like other 20 year old blokes. He watches sport, goes shopping and to the movies, hangs out with his beloved greyhound, and makes his own life decisions (with some help from Mum and Dad where necessary).
The only thing that remains difficult for him is socialising and maintaining friendships.
Mr A is not defined by his wheelchair. He is a vital and witty young man. He is passionate about sport and Japanese Anime, and can hold his own in any conversation. He likes women too, and is slowly learning that it's okay to have a blokey chat with his brothers about the cute girls on TV. Given his lack of life experience in these things, that's a big deal! On average, he's more 16 than 20 in many ways, and we'd like to see that change for the better.
The friends that he had as school are either off doing their own thing, or in the case of other disabled students, pursuing other options (read that as staying home with a day trip to Day Respite twice a week). The role of parents and siblings in this cannot be underestimated and many families don't think much beyond 'school' when it comes to their disabled family member. It's just all too hard.
His older brothers are great at doing their bit and frequently whisk him off to the local sports club for a wowser of an afternoon watching the footy or cricket and having a few Lemonades.
But he wants to hang out with 'friends' too. Alas there are no pubs or clubs where he could feel safe, and entertainment aimed at the disabled is a bit thin on the ground. As much as mainstreaming people with a disability is a wonderful thing, it does mean that they are thrown into situations and locations that aren't entirely safe or comfortable. He no more wants to frequent the Irish Pub down the road, than fly to the moon, and thank the stars for that.
He'd also love to meet some members of the opposite sex, but where do the disabled do that??? How do you put your vulnerable disabled adult 'child' into a situation where they can meet others LIKE THEMSELVES. Also, tell me please, why is it assumed that people in wheelchairs all want to do the same thing? People who get around in a wheelchair, have interests as diverse as any other group. My son has no interest in going to lunch at a tourist spot followed by a flutter on the Pokies, and yet that is what's on offer if you're not very mobile.
Clearly, as far as we've come as a society, we've still got a way to go when it comes to catering for the differntly abled in our society.
If all you know of people in wheelchairs, is the disabled sign on the parking spots at the shopping centre, then maybe it's time to change that. You could make a difference in a disabled persons' life.
Volunteer somewhere, contact your local church to see if they have anyone in their community who could do with a friend, lobby your local politician to improve the lives of the disabled. It's not generally seen as an 'election issue' so the disabled don't get the share of public monies that they really should. Let's make it one.
I'd love to see Mr A with an active social life with great friends and good times. I'm just at an absolute loss as to how to make that happen.
What if you were disabled? It can happen to anyone through accident or injury. What would you need to make your life fulfilled? How would you do it, and who would help you?
I'll get there. I just have to gear up for (yet another) battle. It's all good. That's what we Mums do best.
What's on your Tray of Bliss today?