Having a Developmental Disability and Gaining Independence

Growing up, people around me didn’t give me much of a chance. I was different. Other children never let me forget it. I was teased. I was told, “You’re handicapped. You can’t do anything.”

That’s the start I had in life.

I’ve always had a hard time speaking up to others because I know they’ll say I’m talking “funny.”

But I had the support and love of my parents, who always told me I could do it.

Their encouragement gave me the strength to overcome. In my own time, I proved my critics wrong.

I wanted to be my own person. I wanted to be independent.

Do you know what it’s like to live with a developmental disability? Most people don’t. Most people, even those who love us, also don’t know what we can do. Sometimes, our loved ones and friends want to protect us from the world instead.

But that’s not what I wanted. Like all of us, I wanted to do more.

I was attending a day habilitation program at HeartShare in Brooklyn. I used to rely on the agency’s transportation to and from home. One day, I decided I wasn’t going to do that anymore. I planned the subway line I would take. If I got lost, I would ask a police officer for directions.

I remember the confused look on my brother’s face when he saw me walking down the block to our home. “What are you doing here?” he said, when I showed up much earlier than usual. “I came home by myself,” I said with a mischievous grin.

I taught myself how to take the subway.

Since then, I haven’t let anything get in my way. I believed I could do it. So did the team at HeartShare, which helped me build and strengthen the skills I needed to be on my own.

Today, I shop on my own and make my own meals.

I live on my own and commute to my job.

Sometimes, I go over my friend’s house or family member’s house.

I’m proud to say I can do more things than I thought I could do.

It doesn’t matter how I started. Today, I have my independence.

Find this story helpful? Share it with someone you care about.

Related to Disability

Fountain pen, stethoscope, and health insurance form.

What the Health Care Overhaul Means for a Disabled Woman Like Me

President Trump recently got a bill through the House that would change the current health care laws. In short, this law would allow health insurance companies to either hike up costs or deny coverage altogether for an assortment of “preexisting conditions” such as psychiatric disorders, autism, asthma, and pregnancy… just to name a few. That [...]
NYC Subway Car

New York City MTA Introduces Courtesy Buttons for Passengers With Disabilities

New York City wants to help passengers with disabilities find a seat on public transportation. On Sunday, the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) began a pilot program designed to help people with disabilities, senior citizens and pregnant women get a seat on the city’s buses and trains. The program, which runs through Labor Day, provides those [...]
Woman drawing made of lotus petals.

Please Don't Feel Sorry About My Disability

Upon hearing the story of what happened to me at age 28 (getting sick; the beginnings of physical disability), most people look at me with pity in their eyes and sympathy stitched on their faces, and tell me how sorry they are. I understand this is a response born of compassion and of a desire [...]

Why My Mother Has Been My Greatest Ally as a Person With a Disability

My mother is a hardworking women. She is not perfect, as she often expresses, but to me she gets pretty damn close. I know that no matter what I do, she will always help me to the absolute best of her abilities. More than anything, she is always there for me when I need her. [...]