An invitation to the Easters Seals Walkathon connected me to their Youth Leadership Conference. I had an audience of about 40 youth with physical disabilities and my topic for the day was Self Advocacy. Presenting to this group was amazing they had hope, energy, and inspiration. I was able to connect with them on many different levels. Most importantly I was able to show them through my life experiences that they could do anything that they put their minds.
Through an evaluation I asked the students what did you learn from this presentation?
“I learned to keep going regardless of what anyone says” (John 20)
“That it doesn’t matter what your disability is you can do anything you put your mind too” (Samantha 17)
“To stand up for your rights (against discrimination) no matter what” (Dominic 17)
“I will remember to fight and never let anyone walk over me” (Melissa 17)
I will remember how excited and inactive the youth were throughout the presentation. I could tell right away that I was making a difference in their lives. One student told me that they will most remember :my positive outlook, my never give up attitude and how it was contagious throughout the whole audience”. (Gabe 23)
While having dinner with the youth I was asked how do you deal with being stared at all the time? I began in explaining that it depends on if it is a child or adult and what I might perceive their age to be. Then there is factoring how that staring makes me feel in the moment. The young child maybe 7 and younger is usually just curious and is trying to understand what is different about you. I will often will smile, wave or say hello. That is usually enough to have the child to see you as a person and they move on. After the age of 7 the staring is usually is cruel and they are just making fun of you. The thing to remember is that they are the ones who have the issue not you. For some reason they feel that they have the right to put their issues on you and making fun of you is good. Well, it is good until you call them on it. I will walk up to people and tell to stop staring, tell them what they are doing is wrong, ask them if they would like to be stared at or just stare back. When you do these things it changes the power in the situation you gain your power and they become uncomfortable. When I was a kid I would fun with the kids when they laughed at me and they stopped pretty quick and I use to tell adults that I was sorry they had such a small brain.