It certainly is a different world for the young disabled today growing up, compared to the 1960s/1970s when I grew up. Young disabled grow up in a more inclusive and supportive environment; society is more accepting of the disabled, and there are many more governmental and voluntary sources of support. Yes, there is still a long way to go, but people have to remember that it’s a lot better than it was.
The 1960s were still the days of institutionalisation of the disabled with very limited access to resources. However, I count my blessings for not having been part of this process because I was an expat child(cerebral palsy and scoliosis) being raised in mainstream society. I would have been institutionalised if it hadn’t been for my parents’ refusal. Quite frankly, if I had, I would not be the person I am. I wouldn’t have had the opportunities I had, or the education, or done the travelling I’ve done, or had the chance to support myself as an English language teacher.
I can imagine what my life would have been like if I had gone to a special school in Scotland, but I know one thing, the life I’ve had has been immensely more interesting, enriching, rewarding, and stimulating. Certainly, the path I chose has often been hard emotionally, and physically exhausting to say the least; probably a life in Scotland would have been easier in many ways, being disabled. I am essentially happy with how my life has worked out, although I could happily have done without the surgeries, plasters/casts, and the near fatal tropical illness! Apart from the support of my parents, I achieved all that I did/have done in my life through my own efforts; I am proud of this.
I could have spent a life-time being angry at the world for my plight, feeling sorry for myself, and asking ‘Why me?’ To me, this would have been completely pointless, and a total waste of energy. I have lived my life on the premise of acceptance – the acceptance of my situation, dealing with it, and getting on with living the best life I could given my circumstances.
A big part of this was that I didn’t think it was strange or impossible to live my life as an expat, albeit a disabled expat.