Your Family, Your Friends, Your Community

Talking to Your Parents

One of the hardest things about getting older is that your relationship with your parents or guardians changes. When you were a little kid, they made almost every decision for you. By the time you’re a teenager, you get to decide some things, like who will be your friends and what you’ll do with some of your free time, but you’re still limited by restrictions your parents place on you.

Your parents have good reasons for participating in your life; they love you and have cared about you since the day you were born. They have been your advocates and done everything they can to help you succeed.

However, as you get older and after you turn 18, you become an adult. You become the person who has the final say in most of the decisions that affect you. For some people, the transition to adulthood goes pretty smoothly; their parents understand how they can support their children. However, as they become adults, many young people have a difficult time with their parents. If you find yourself in this situation, don’t worry, it’s natural.

If your parents think that you can’t be successful because of your disability, it’s important that you find a mentor or peer counselor and also that you refer your parents to an independent living center so that they can learn more about disability.

Often, money can also become an issue in a relationship between young people and their parents. This may be because your parents are giving you financial support. Alternatively, it may be that our parents got used to getting your benefits checks, like SSI checks, and now those checks are being sent to you. The best solution for this type of problem over the long-term is for you to develop a plan that will eventually lead to you getting a good job.

Even if you and your parents don’t agree on everything, don’t reject all of your parents’ ideas and opinions just because they’re your parents. A big part of being independent is that you lead your life, but in order to be independent, you need to make sure that you have a circle of family, friends, and people you trust who can give you support and advice. Your parents, who have been there for you for many years, are key people in that circle.

Self-Advocacy

To be successful as an adult, you have to make sure your rights are respected. Making sure your rights are respected is also called “self-advocacy.”

Self-advocacy doesn’t actually mean that you have to do everything by yourself. Your family and friends can give you support. There are also community organizations, like independent living centers, that can help you. If you work for a large employer, you may find an organized group of disabled employees at your workplace. Or, if you’re in college, join your school’s disabled student group.

Disability Community Resources

Here are some great organizations that can help you become a self-advocate:

The National Consortium on Leadership and Disability for Youth (NCLD/Y)

NCLD/Y has information about becoming a leader, disability history, the disability movement, your rights, and more.

The National Youth Leadership Network (NYLN)

NYLN helps promote leadership development, education, employment, independent living, health, and wellness among young people with disabilities. Through NYLN, you can become involved in advocacy at national, state, and local levels.

The Youthhood

The Youthhood is a website designed for young people with disabilities that talks about the transition from being a teen to being an adult. It has lots of information about education, rights, health, finding work, participating in the community, getting a mentor, finding activities, making friends, and getting an apartment.

PACER Center

PACER Center has a resource directory for young Minnesotans with disabilities. It has information about organizations and websites dedicated to such issues as health, families, education, and employment. It also has links to all sorts of interesting activities and events.

Being a Part of the Community

You will often hear that “independence” is a major part of being an adult. However, it is important to understand that being independent does not mean being alone. It means making your own decisions and leading your own life.

An important part of being independent is deciding what to do with your time. Traditionally, many people with disabilities had few options. Some people had to stay in institutions; others were pressured to stay at home. Because of this, people with disabilities didn’t have the opportunity to choose to spend their time with other people in their communities and join in the day-to-day activities that everybody else could do.

However, disabled leaders and new laws have changed things. Now, public buildings are much more accessible and people with disabilities can join in activities, meet people, make friends, and get jobs. It’s important for you to do the same, because spending time with others and sharing in community activities are a major part of what makes life fun!

Community activities include all sorts of things, like going to movies, going to parties, or even just going to the supermarket. However, the community doesn’t just have to be your local area. It could be events that take place online, over the phone, or any other way that involves being in touch with other people.

For example, there are many statewide and national networks where you can meet other young people with disabilities and share experiences with them, including the organizations and websites listed in this section. If you don’t know a lot of people, you can also look into clubs, volunteer at an organization, join a church group, or find other ways to meet people.

Finding a Mentor

In addition to joining groups and organizations, you can also get more involved in the community by getting a mentor. A mentor is a person who can provide you with guidance and support. A lot of people have found ways to work around obstacles to reach their goals and have interesting lives, and many of them are eager to share their time and ideas.

Talking to somebody living with your disability or a similar one can help you learn about tips and resources that are available to help you succeed in whatever you decide to do in life. You might have a mentor you just talk to on the phone or communicate with by email; or you might have a mentor you meet in person.

You may be able to find a mentor through family or friends. Here are other resources that can help you find a mentor: