I wrote this blog about 6 weeks ago and left it in draft mode and kept coming back to it. I couldn’t post it, it just didn’t feel…right. Finally, someone did something special and I felt it was right to post it and continue the discussion.
In High School, I was a ‘normal’ boy. I played sports, chased girls, stayed out past curfew, upset my parents, and regrettably bullied other kids. I was mean, irresponsible and I had a superhero ego. If only I could understand what was to come.
In university, I immersed myself in the studies of working with individuals with disabilities. At 20, I was working in respite for families who needed a break from their family members who were living with challenging disabilities. My second job out of university was looking after recreation services for a large home for individuals with disabilities and mental illnesses. Today, I am the Director of Home HealthCare of the largest mobility product supplier in Atlantic Canada providing products to, you guessed it, individuals with disabilities.
We had our first 3 girls (Georgie, Sarah and Amy) without as much as a case of jaundice. Three healthy, bouncing girls full of life and vitality. Then we decided to have our 4th, Laura Dawn Gunn.
Laura’s first 2 years were filled with doctor appointments and endless questions. She was different than our other girls and her development definitely raised eyebrows. Doctors couldn’t figure it out or put a name on it so they referred to it as “developmental delay”. Laura didn’t walk til she was 2 and we were estatic to see her take a step without crashing nose-first into a coffee table.
Finally, somewhat of a diagnosis after a genetic test. Laura has “extra chromosomal material on the 12th chromosome”. OK, what does that mean? It means, they don’t really know what is going to happen. Rae and I were concerned until we realized Laura had no clue what it meant and as long as she had Rae at her side, she really didn’t care.
7 years ago I was told that Laura was going to be profoundly disabled and will need 24 hour care. Now things look different. She has outpaced what doctors had thought to be her future. She runs, she climbs, she draws, she complains and she does a lot of other things kids her age do. She bosses her sisters, Rae and I on a daily basis. Her sisters have indescribable empathy on most days and will grow up differently than I did. The way her sisters’ soccer teammates interact with Laura would melt the toughest of hearts. Laura is going to spill her milk everyday at school or your house, she is going to take way too long to get dressed, she is going to have accidents in high school, and Laura is going to get your coffee order wrong when she works in fast food in ten years. I don’t apologize for any of this.
If we are going to be a great community and country, we need people like Laura. I struggle and get frustrated everyday about how long it takes Laura to accomplish tasks and I need to practice more empathy around this. I’m her Dad and need to put her ahead of myself.
There are now great resources and hope for Laura. I live near Summer Street Industries in New Glasgow, Nova Scotia (summerstreet.ca). This organizations pairs the skills and abilities of amazing individuals to tangible, valuable products that need to be developed and produced, all the while teaching valuable life skills. If we are lucky enough, Laura will be a part of this organization and will then go onto work for amazing companies that support and encourage employment for people with disabilities. (http://www.ctvnews.ca/canada/at-this-nova-scotia-grocery-store-a-third-of-employees-have-disabilities-1.3220143. )
My goal for this post was to create awareness that there are many individuals with different skill sets to offer that we are over-looking. As a business, please consider adding them to your team. As a consumer, please not only accept, but applaud their performance and appreciate their work.
I am very proud of Laura and she makes me a better person.