Disability or not, they're still my children

A mother's love overcomes all challenges ...
A mother's love overcomes all challenges ... 

All parents go through different struggles with their children. Some may be faced with a fussy eater, a late walker, or a child who pushes their boundaries beyond belief. But for approximately 54,600 people in Australia, their lives are just a bit harder: they are the main carers to children with a disability.

With the Julia Gillard government moving forward with the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), many Australian lives will be made so much easier. According to the 2003 ABS Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers, approximately 3,946,400 people in Australia were living with a disability (20%). For Australian children aged up to 14 years, about 1 in 12 had a disability. The survey also found that there were approximately 54,600
people in Australia caring for children with a severe or profound disability. The important figure to note: 91% of these carers were mothers.

Being a mother is already quite a difficult job. You're choosing to put your child first, doing what you think is best for them, making sacrifices so they can have the life that they deserve. But for a mother raising a child with a disability, life is tougher beyond measure.

How do I know? All three of my children have learning disabilities. To say that my days are hard would be the biggest understatement of the year. I have three girls - a 2, 4 and 6-year-old. They all have a speech and language impairment, and are incredibly delayed in their communication. My two oldest children attend a Language Development Centre for their schooling. Most of my time is spent rushing to specialist appointments, and implementing the strategies prescribed. My abilities as a mother and as a person, are tested every day – I get emotionally stressed, mentally drained, and physically tired. It's not easy, but I never doubt for a second that it is worth it.

I remember when I first realised that my 6-year-old had a speech delay, she was only eight months old at the time. Although she was my first child, I knew something wasn't right. My mother's intuition refused to back down. Thankfully, my concerns were reaffirmed by a Child Health Nurse, who then proceeded to begin the referral process.

So there my husband and I were - jumping from appointment to appointment, trying our best to give our first child the best start in life. But life got harder when we were told that speech and language impairments can be genetic, thereby leaving our two subsequent daughters with the same issue. Add to this, we discovered that all three children were developmentally delayed in other areas too. For the past six years, I have attended
hundreds of appointments: some for Speech Pathology, Physiotherapy, Occupational Therapy, Psychology, Social Work; even for the Paediatrician and Dietician.

It's so easy to slap a label on my children and call them 'disabled'. But living with a disability isn't all there is to them. They are my young, happy kids who jump up and down at the sound of Hi-5 music playing on the television. They are my energetic kids who dangle off playgrounds like monkeys at the local zoo. They are my emotionally-aware kids who smile, laugh and cry just like other child you'll ever meet. To me, they're not just 'disabled'. They are my children.

I'm not going to lie. My patience level has been tested, every button has been pushed, tears have been shed in the car (some of those were my very own); but my love for them has never faltered. They may be incredibly behind their peers, but my love for them remains unconditional. It's not about loving them in spite of their disability, but because of it: it makes them who they are.

For many parents out there caring for a child with a disability, the everyday struggle is hard. The rushing to appointments is hard, the waiting for good news is hard, the lack of compassion from others is hard. But like every other parent, there will be struggles. These are just the ones that we have to face.

But every time I hold my three children close to me, I don't remember the fact that they can't communicate very well. I don't remember the frustration that they feel often; their inability to regulate their emotions. I remember that they are my children. They are the children that I carried in my rounded pregnant belly for 9 months. They are the children that I promised to be a good mother to. They are the children that I will accept and love, no matter what happens. They are the children who need me to be strong, to be courageous, to make all the decisions that they can't make themselves.

Disability or not, they're still my children.

Thuy Yau is a freelance writer, who likes inspiring others with her thoughts. You can follow Thuy on Twitter, join her on Facebook, or read her personal development blog at Inside a Mother's Mind.