Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Something in the Way

Hi all! We didn't have adequate wi-fi at the youth leadership forum for me to keep you updated, unfortunately, but that should be the last blogging-break this summer. We'll be back to our regularly scheduled five-posts-a-week program!

YLF is something I do every year. Since I was a student there in 2005, I've missed to study abroad, but otherwise progressed up the ladder toward becoming a facilitator. I'm "Adult Staff" now, facilitating a group of students in applying what they learn through the weekend about disabilities, leadership and themselves.

It's a lot of controlled chaos to herd a hundred people--most of whom have disabilities--around Tallahassee for a weekend. I decided the theme song of the program should be "Something in the Way" by Nirvana, because of how often a wheelchair, walker, chair or, student has to be moved out of the way to let someone else by. However, this morning after I slept off the last of the camp tired, I realized this has another meaning.

For most of the students there is something in the way of them becoming fully themselves and taking charge of their lives. To an outsider, that something would be their disability, but at YLF we know it's not. It's the teacher, parent, friend, foe, mindset that holds them back, either by not believing in them or coddling them.

We have a student whose parents thought she needed a Personal Care Attendant, because she couldn't dress herself. At YLF she turns up ready to go every morning, no help needed.

One of my delegates this year came in painfully shy--almost completely silent--and then spoke in front of the group the last day to tell us all she'd learned to accept herself.

In my group, I had three girls with learning disabilities. They bonded over experiences of teachers not believing they were disabled, or refusing to grant their accommodations.

We all have stories like this, of the obstacles we faced and YLF helped us get over. As a facilitator, my job is to help identify and eliminate the something in the way, but more often the students do it themselves, the first of many steps toward independence YLF helps them to make.

But kids with disabilities aren't the only ones with roadblocks. What's the something in the way in the journey you're taking? (and because we always want the students to find a solution) How can you start to shove it away?