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Having a Developmental Disability and Gaining Independence

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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.

Originally published: May 18, 2017
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