Can-Do-Ability: Answers and Solutions from my personal experiences of living with a disability

We All Have Some Sort Of A Disability

1 Jun 2011In 2009, for International Day of People With a Disability, I attended a breakfast, where I did a talk about my car and it’s conversions.

There were around 100 people there, and it was my first talk to a large group, since I’d started my job here at NOVA Employment.

I spoke about getting my licence, having my car converted and all of the steps involved in doing so. I had a lovely day and was told by many people at the breakfast, that I did a great job and they couldn’t believe it was my first talk.

A lot of the audience consisted of people with disabilities. I didn’t get around to meeting everyone, but I handed out flyers about my job and my blog, so people could have a look at what I do, in more detail.

A few days later, I was contacted by a lady who was in the audience when I did my talk. She is the mother of a young lady named April, who, amongst other disabilities, was born with a mild form of Cerebral Palsy. April had been told to write a speech about her life and her disability, to help get her through some tough times. She wanted me to read her speech.

It has been over a year now, but I still always remember what April wrote, and I would like to share it with you today.

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We all have some sort of a disability - By April

We all have some sort of a disability, lacking in one way or another. You don’t have to have an obvious disability to be disabled. You could be a bully and your disability would be lacking in social skills or you can have an obvious disability like 2009 dancing with the stars contestant Gerrard Gosens who is a past Paralympian who has climbed Mt Everest, swum with sharks and flown a motor glider around Queensland. Who in this room could dream of doing all these things let-alone doing them blind. I have 2 close friends that I would like to describe to you. Sara was born with a disability, as she was born with a bone disease, she lost her leg due to this, and another is Daniel who was diagnosed with a brain tumour at 16, has had some very traumatic but inspirational experiences.

They both still live life to the fullest, making national and state teams in their classification in many different sports such as swimming, athletics, football and basketball. But what if their attitude was different, what if they didn’t care, what if they gave up on everything they wanted to achieve? How much worse off would they be then? Whether it is a student, teacher or parent we should all look for the similarities in everyone rather than seeing the differences. I haven’t met anyone yet who isn’t different in some way or another, so far in my life, so what’s the big deal?

Most of you already know that my name is April, but for those of you that don’t hi. I have had a disability my whole life. I was born 3 months premie and at 2 days old I had a brain haemorrhage, this affected the left side of my brain and left me with epilepsy, cerebral palsy and a learning disability. My parents were told that I would never be able to live a normal life, wouldn’t be able to use a knife and fork and might not ever walk. But as I got older and spent long day trips on a regular basis back and forth to Westmead Children’s Hospital, trips everyday to Campbelltown hospital for physio and seeing doctor after doctor prescribing medication and watching my every move, I got through it, learning that each day was a gift and without all the help and support I received I wouldn’t be where I am today.

Three years ago, I was diagnosed with a blood disease, and woke up one morning with a twisted leg. For the next 3 months doctors couldn’t find out the cause and couldn’t fix the problem, this was after spending everyday at the hospital doing therapy. The last chance was surgery which was successful, but the physio that I saw recommended that I join an athletics team for children with disabilities. (I hated sport and athletics as I could never do it).

I have been training in Athletics for two years now and swimming for 1 year. I have competed in the Pacific School Games and won medals for Shot Put and Javelin, I made State with Little Athletics and won gold for Shot Put, Long Jump and 100m, I have been selected by the South West Academy of Sport and won the Chairpersons award for most potential athlete with a disability, and recently I have just come back from Melbourne from the Australian Paralympic Youth Games and brought home Silver Medals for Discus and Javelin and came 4th place for Shot Put, Long Jump and 50m Backstroke . I currently hold the Australian Record for Javelin under 16 girls and I have four more events coming up this year and some booked in for early 2010.

I think to myself Wow! Who would have thought that I could compete in athletics and swimming let alone win medals, so if I can do it anyone can!

Today I am epilepsy free, able to use a knife and fork, and I not only can walk I can run, jump and skip, train and compete in 100m, 200m, discus, shot put, javelin, long jump, 50m backstroke, 50m freestyle, 100m backstroke and 100m freestyle, as well as looking and acting almost like a normal teen, I still have trips every now and then to Westmead Children’s Hospital, trips to Campbelltown hospital and I still see doctors occasionally.

But today I am here to raise awareness about kids with disabilities, kids like me, anyone and everyone with a physical or intellectual disability to let them know that they shouldn’t let their disability get in the way of who they want to be and what they want to become, instead I want to show them that you can still achieve things when you have a disability.

Many Australian Paralympian’s, such as Cyclist Jayme Paris who won a bronze medal in the Beijing Para Olympic games and less famous stars such as myself and many of my friends have turned a disability into ability. Not to hide a deformity/disability, but to wear it with pride because people like us have beaten the odds, come leaps and bounds, and for what? We have done it because we want a little dignity, respect and acceptance we want to be considered equal.

Which in fact we are and not to be labelled with fancy names. Labelling us with different names for different disabilities is fine for medical textbooks, but the label should not define us. So I guess what I really want to get across is that I am just like you. I have the same ups and downs except just a little bigger; I have the same dreams except sometimes they’re a little cloudy and the same hopes that are sometimes a little higher. “Challenges are what makes life interesting and overcoming them is what makes life meaningful”. (Say’s my friend Daniel)

In speaking to you today, I hope to inspire and encourage other young people with disabilities to get out there and give things a go, to make them aware of what’s available for them and to show others that anything is possible if you set your mind to it and not give up. When we look at ourselves disabilities can come in many forms and not everyone can be a swimming champion, a perfect student, a model or what we might call perfect.

My dad came so close to winning a medal at the recent world master’s softball game this year, but they came fourth. Has he given up on himself and his team mates because they weren’t winners? No! He is already planning for the next attempt.

Life is a gift that we should take on with courage and live to the fullest. So remember to stand up for who you are and what you want and like me and my good friend Jayme Paris don’t let anyone DIS Your ABILITY.

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With wisdom like this, you’d be forgiven to think this girl is in her mid to late twenties, or older, with a lifetime of knowledge. But no, when April wrote this, she was only sixteen years old. It’s amazing what such a young girl can think, and the attitude that she has already.

It looks like there might be an inspirational speaker in April, waiting to come out... Great work, keep it up, and I hope you always carry that wonderful, positive outlook on life that you have!

What did you think of April’s speech? Do you have anything similar that you live by? Who inspires you? Who makes you get up out of bed each and every morning?

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