When we arrived to our first session of partners in April, I was so afraid. Afraid of not being smart enough to understand, of being too shy to participate, of feeling out of place with all of you. During that first day, I left partway through Kathy Snow’s presentation, and went out in the hallway and cried. I thought, “What have I gotten myself into?!” I called my husband at home and said, “I can’t do this. They all know so much more than I do. They have more experience. I don’t fit in.” He gently reassured me that I could do it, and that it was important for our son that I stick it out.
I am a people watcher, and I have spent the past 8 months watching all of you. We are such a diverse group of people. We have single moms struggling to do it all, with the added trials of a child with a disability. We have parents who are at that point where their kids are adults, and they are taking a big new step. We have brave parents who have adopted children, and one who is trying to adopt a little girl. One mom has a huge family to raise with several children with disabilities. We have a father who has 2 children with a disability that they are the pioneering. I have seen a father come with his son, and show us all what love looks like.
As I got to know you a little better, I began to realize that I could learn so much from all of you. We are all so different, with different kinds of lives, but we all have something in common: we love our children.
As much as I have learned from all of you parents, the real inspiration has been getting to know our self-advocates. I’ll admit that I was afraid at first. Other than my own child, I haven’t had much interaction with people with disabilities. I didn’t want to say or do something that would offend you. But I would not trade the experience of meeting all of you for anything. You are brave, confident, opinionated, effective advocates for yourselves and others. You are making Idaho a better place for everyone, and Idaho children will benefit from the work you are doing. I am so glad to know you and call you my friends.
The importance of the things that we have learned is incredible. To know about the laws that effect people with disabilities, to know how to give testimony to the legislature, to have connections with others who can help in the fight to make things better- this is invaluable .I am going to use my new advocacy skills to make the world better for my child. And I will proceed with the confidence that I can make a difference for all people with disabilities.