This post was contributed by Letrell Hodge

What does your child want to be when they grow up? If they could do anything for a job, would they want to be a doctor, a teacher, or maybe a professional athlete? Well I am here to say that your child can be anything he or she desires regardless of his or her disability.
But first things first, I want to focus on the parents. What is empowerment? Empowerment is giving options to individuals, so they can makes decisions to be independent.
Where does empowerment come from? According to author Ed Hammer, Ph.D. empowerment comes from you. Have you ever encountered a person who looked helpless or beaten down? They have forgotten that they have the choice of not being a victim and of being an equal participant. All of us at one time or another have felt powerless or helpless, but those people who do something about it decide that they will not live their life as being a victim.
There are several barriers to empowerment; two of them are stress and anger. Stress can be viewed as a negative. Being on your own in the present day can be stressful. There are all types of challenges that arise which we have to deal with every day, and the stress of having to deal with these challenges can drain you! Here are some quick tips to help you deal with it. First of all, recognize the stress before it becomes a problem. Second, restate the stress as an opportunity. And lastly, expect the unexpected.
Second of all; we all know what anger is, and we’ve all felt it. Whether it’s an annoyance or a rage, how you deal with it is important. Our natural instinct to respond to anger is with immediate aggression. Anger inspires us to fight and respond with attack. Some techniques you can use to calm down are breathing deeply from the diaphragm; using yoga-like exercises; or slowly repeating a word or a phrase, such as “relax”. Also another way to keep your anger at bay is to use humor. A lot of situations, if examined, can be laughable. Some ways that you can help empower yourself and help to empower others is to:

  • Set short and long term goals for yourself.
  • Learn when and how to step back. We all want and deserve independence.
  • Know that there are other support systems to support you and your child (Able SC, Family Connections, and Pro-Parents to name a few).
  • Have fun. Things happen for a reason and sometimes we need to let go and live our life.
  • Realize that the only way for young adults to be independent is for them to accomplish his or her own goals.

Now it’s time to help empower the young adults. The first thing that you should do as a parent is think back; what was it like to be a young adult? What were my goals? Aspirations? How did I reach those goals? Who helped me? Some tips that you can use to help your young adult are:

  • Start empowering; stop enabling. The biggest disability for most young adults isn’t autism or a learning disability, it’s the parents of young adults enabling their children, meaning being afraid of them failing or being unsuccessful the first time around.
  • Listen without criticizing. Young adults and people in general solve problem and approach problems differently. Listen to solutions without criticizing.

Remember that people with disabilities are equal, not special. People with a disability can either be treated special or equally; but they can’t live both lives.
Encourage without completing tasks for them. Show young adults what they need, but don’t complete the task for them. Remember, it’s ok for them to fail. Failure is part of learning, and learning is part of growing.
Believe in the young adult’s abilities and their capabilities to achieve. Young adults with disabilities can be just like anyone without a disability, but they need someone to believe in them and their skills.
Start dreaming and keep achieving!
About the Author:
Hi, my name is Letrell Hodge, I am 17 years old. I will be turning 18 on July 27. During my childhood I was diagnosed with auditory processing concern, resulting in me wearing a hearing aid for a while.
During my free time, I like to read, write and play basketball. My favorite subjects in school are Science, Social Studies and Language Arts. My favorite food is pizza and my favorite movie is Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief. I also like the boy band Big Time Rush and the book White Fang.
I am attending an online virtual school South Carolina Connections Academy and I have aspirations on entering the medical field someday.
I am currently working for Able SC as an EQUIP Leader.