These are not your parents’ perceptions of disability!
Most parents say dreams for their children’s future center on one goal — happiness. For parents of children with special needs, we often add "independence."
As mom to a 3-year-old with Down syndrome, I think about Charlie's future in some way every day. It's a very different approach to parenthood because while no child's happy, successful and productive future is guaranteed, options are much more plentiful for a typically-developing child, such as my daughter.
I worry how we’ll pay for college for both of them (while worrying if Charlie will be able to attend college). I worry whether my daughter will choose sports over drugs and ambitious friends over slackers (while worrying whether Charlie will be able to cross the street safely by himself one day).
Then I learn of families who pushed worries to the side and focused on their child with Down syndrome — his likes, her abilities, his talents or her hobbies. I've learned that when parents allow children to steer their own destinies, good things can happen.
Andrew Banar is 22 years old and sells T-shirts with his own designs via his company, Group Hug Apparel. "This little idea that we thought friends and family would support him on has taken off, and he has a product that people from around the world have purchased," shares Andrew's mom, Karen Pickle.
Perhaps one of the biggest insights into how parents like Pickle think differently can be found in her response to the question, "How old was Andrew when you began to think about his future?"
She replies, "Andrew was about 18 years old when he started to think about what he wanted to do with his life."
Independence clearly starts at home, from parents and loved ones who believe in a person's ability and want to see dreams come to fruition.
"My mom and dad let me try almost anything I want to try as long as I do not get hurt," Banar tells SheKnows. "My parents help me to achieve my goals. We work together as a family team."
What’s the secret? How can I, as a parent of a child with a disability, learn to let go and let my child shine in the way he is meant to shine?
"We take each day as it comes," Pickle explains. "When it comes to working with Andrew, we like to take his ideas and simplify them for him. Give him the closest approximation to his idea as possible. This way, the ability to understand and achieve the goals is less frustrating to him and our family."
Another indicator of success may be a family’s dedication to giving back. Group Hug Apparel has donated more than $15,000 to local charities, Pickle reports.
"Do not be afraid to ask for help," Banar advises any individual with a disability who might be scared to try a new job or even run a business. "Sometimes, we all need help."
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