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5 Unexpected Things You Learn When Your Parent Has a Disability

My mother was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis when I was only 9 years old, so to me, it’s pretty much the most ordinary thing in the world. With a disabled parent, you get used to things that others would find difficult to imagine – everything from bath hoists (great fun as a kid) to flirting with hospital baristas to pass the time. Sometimes it can be painful, but other times, being part of a club as unique as this one can be quite fun. Here are five unexpected things you learn when you have a parent with a disability.

1. Wheelchairs are great – but come with their own challenges.

When my mum first switched from crutches to a wheelchair, I spent hours rolling around the ground floor of our house, pretending to be Ade Adepitan. That is, until I inelegantly crashed into a door frame. Navigating the world in a wheelchair is a completely different and often more difficult experience, including the way you are treated by others. As the child of a disabled person – particularly when you live with them or help care for them – you see this firsthand.

2. Disabled access is patchy at best.

There’s no quicker way to learn which universities, cafes, wedding venues and shopping centers are disability-friendly than by having a disabled family member. After having one too many stressful moments, you learn to have a sixth sense when it comes to unexpected stairs, narrow pathways and “characterful” buildings boasting exposed brickwork, original features and no elevators. And even when you aren’t with your parents, it’s hard not to notice when accessibility is not up to scratch.

3. Hospitals are your best and worst friend.

Hospitals are always bittersweet. While they often mark the treatment or improvement of a condition and being seen by the right people, they can also feel sterile and just plain boring. There are only so many tuna sandwiches you can eat from the cafeteria… and what about a hospital movie theater? That would certainly pass the time…

4. Childhood can be different.

You may not know anything else, but the life of a family affected by disability can be radically different from the “average” one. You may have to deal with things other children may scream and stamp their feet at – school plays might be missed, priorities may be different and routines most families take for granted – mealtimes, playtimes and holidays – can change or disappear due to illness.

5. You grow up with a different perspective on life – but in the end, a good one.

Despite the challenges, children of disabled parents tend to grow up with a perspective that proves really useful over the course of their life.

My mum’s disability has taught me to be selfless when I need to be, but also to insist on good care and attention when I or my family need it. I’m fiercely independent, but also kind and compassionate. And while I would not say I am grateful for her condition, I am very proud to be her daughter.

This post originally appeared on Verbal Remedy.