Note from Laura this is being posted a second time as only half of it was sent to me the first time so it has been updated and this is the full version
I began working with Laura when I was attending University of Waterloo for Therapeutic Recreation. I was a long way from my home in BC and wanted a job to stave off the ‘starving student syndrome’, not to mention the loneliness of living away from home by myself. I decided to see if I could find a respite contract and was lucky enough to be paired with Laura when I did.
I remember being a little nervous when I was going to meet her and her family for the first time. When I walked in the front door however, it felt like I was coming home. Laura was a somewhat shy 14 year old at the time, and her and her family were warm and welcoming. Some of the goals that we were to work on during our time together were walking, increase independence, and increase socializing with peers.
Right from the beginning I realized that Laura was a very stubborn person. She would argue with her parents about walking until they left the house. I would then look at her and say, “You don’t walk. We aren’t going out.” She would always finish the task in five minutes flat! It still makes me chuckle to this day! We would then load into my truck and off we would go to the mall. It was always a challenge for me to know what Laura could do by herself, and what she could do independently. I would always push her to do more when it came to transfers and I am sure she was angered by this behaviour from me, but she had met her match in stubbornness. This was something we both knew from the beginning and I believe it worked well for both of us!
Being from BC I was not a fan of the Ontario winters. I do not love snow! Being in the mall and wheeling/walking around and eating the occasional cinnamon bun, (the smell of cinnamon will always remind me of Laura!) I could imagine being away from the snow. It was during these times that a relationship began to form, and Laura became a friend.
She is an old soul, and even though there is a difference in our ages, and it was first a professional relationship, over time we became fast friends. I looked forward to our chats while watching movies at her house. I think going through the teenage years is difficult for anyone. For someone living with Cerebral Palsy I saw it as significantly more challenging. Laura got to a point where she was comfortable asking questions, and I was able to answer what I could. I learned about Laura and her history living with cerebral palsy. I learned that her differing ability shaped her family relationships, and that her family are, loving, kind, and caring, but they are human and they needed breaks from one another. I found that when Laura was with them that she was very dependent on them. As soon as they walked out the door the transformation of Laura from the dependent daughter to the independent teenager was miraculous. I wish that I could have recorded this and shown both Laura and her family, as when they walked back in the door at the end of the night Laura fell back into the role of dependent. This frustrated me to no end!
There were times that I wish that I could have done more in terms of fairness with peers, and increasing social interaction with peers, but that is a challenge that I believe that anyone with a disability faces. I just hope that I was able to help Laura realize that challenges interacting with her peers didn’t have to do with her so much, but that society as a whole has a long way to go in terms of fairness to all.
I worked with Laura for four years while attending university. I was able to watch Laura grow from a somewhat awkward teenager into a young woman about to enter college. It is funny because today I still think of Laura as the girl that I left when I said goodbye to when I moved away after university. We have not seen each other physically for around 11 years, but we talk often and have maintained the friendship that was created all those years ago. I am hoping to drive out to visit Laura in the next couple of years. It will be a wonderful reunion with her and her family after 11 years, and a wonderful opportunity to be able to introduce her to my husband and daughter.
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