On May 8, 2012, I interviewed Kerry Fletcher and Kathleen McAllen, two moms who have kids with disabilities. This interview was one of the most touching and emotional interviews I have done! And I thank both of these ladies so much for opening up their hearts and giving us a view into the joys of raising a child with special needs, along with the heartbreak of the diagnosis and the grief of their child having to deal with the lifelong struggle that they never asked for. I admired both Kerry and Kathleen's attitudes when they talked about that first diagnosis. Kerry looked at it this way : "We had been seeing delays for a while before we got the diagnosis, so the diagnosis was the cherry on top. We knew why and we had answers so then we knew what direction to go." When I asked Kerry how she sees the future for her kids, she said : "That's why we have the IEP set up at school to direct them. We don't know what that future will look like yet, but we try to look at all angles and are hopeful that they will be independent and have jobs"
Kathleen said: "My husband and I are both practical people, and so with the diagnosis, we thought, ok, we're not crazy...this is real..now we have something to work with." In the same breath, both moms agreed that there is a grieving of the loss of what you think is going to be. It is a process for not only moms, but dads and siblings and even other family members who live far away. Kathleen gave a word of encouragement to people who make the extra effort to get to know those who have disabilities: "Make that extra effort to get to know them, you will get more than you give!"
The diagnosis of your child with a disability is not the end of the world. It's the beginning of a new world... one to get used to and to be informed about. Kathleen and Kerry have been through all the uncertainty, but have come out on the other side....and they hope that their story helps others to know that there is light at the end of the tunnel.
This interview also hit home for me. My mom has been my cheerleader and advocate for many years now. She has helped me through the ups and down of my teenage years into adulthood, coping with the shadow of my disability. The things she said and did allowed me to put the challenges aside and view these opportunities as a chance to grow and flourish and she was by my side through it all!! Mom: THANK YOU!!
For more information on chapters of the Best Buddies program, go to: www.bestbuddies.org to find a chapter in the state you live in. For information locally, in the Indianapolis area, go to: www.bestbuddiesindiana.org