For someone who has gone through the public school system (for the most part) since elementary school, I have had my fair share of teachers, physical therapists, and occupational therapists assigned to me as helpers. They helped me get to and from class with all my stuff, helped keep me safe during all drills, helped me with personal/self-care matters, made sure I could participate in all activities even with my disability, and accompanied me on all field trips. They were basically there ALL day just for me. Nice, right?
Well, me being the independent, stubborn person that I am, I hated it most of the time. Having an older person around all the time always deterred kids from approaching me and being friends with me. I became very self-conscious and irritated when an adult came to the door and asked for me in the middle of class. As I got older, the teachers and therapists assigned to me recognized that I wanted and needed that independence, but I still just wasn't appreciative about even the little things they did. Fast forward to where I am now as a third-year college student, and I so incredibly wish to have that designated person assigned to me throughout the day. I am writing this article, as my motorized wheelchair sits dead in the back of a trailer being useless to me when I had class a few hours back and needing help transferring my bookbag.
Being a college student with a disability definitely has its challenges. For one thing, I am now learning how to advocate for myself and my needs. And then on top of that, I have to deal with the occasional person not accommodating me for various reasons and having to adapt without it. Every college varies in the ability to accommodate a student. So the accommodations I get at Elon, are not the same as I would get at the local community college. Which is kind of a bummer because those with disabilities already have a hard time adjusting to a physical environment and now we're forced to stay alert in adjusting to potentially inconvenient circumstances. It's even worse when faculty leaves you to fend for yourself in those inconvenient circumstances. In grade school, especially when I had a cell phone, I was privileged enough to have the direct cell phone numbers of every important staff member. They were always one call away to save the day.
The purpose of writing this article isn't to complain about the ways in which disability services at certain institutions are lacking. Although if you ask me personally later, I can talk your ear off about that issue. I am writing to simply acknowledge all those who helped me grow as a person and care for me for eight hours of the day. Thank you. Thank you for always wanting to help me even when I was a difficult person to work with.
I certainly see why people say: "You only realize the importance of someone until they're gone." I realize how important you were for my emotional and physical health but you also helped me become the independent person I am today. I am blessed to have had each and every one of you in my corner. And to those who continued to support me long after I left their care: I love you and I hope every student you care for from here on out is as grateful and appreciative as I am now and should have been every day you were physically with me.