The Evolution of Independence

Curated by
Whitney Bailey
Content via Disabled Parenting Project
Disabled Parenting Project
Curated by
Whitney Bailey

Patrick Bohn was born with cerebral palsy. He wants others to understand how complex the term "disability" is, and that even though two individuals might be diagnosed with the same disability, the effects of that disability can be totally different person to person. This also means that one's definition of the word independence can vary.

“To understand what the fluidity of independence means, you have to understand that “disability” is an incredibly complex term. There are countless disabilities, and various types of each of those disabilities, and various levels of severity within each specific type. You may know someone with spastic quadriplegic cerebral palsy, or even have it yourself. And there’s almost a 100-percent chance that that version of CP is different than mine.”

boy smiles next to his birthday cake

Patrick says that independence is an evolution. As a child, Patrick felt like to be independent he had to learn to walk and navigate his non-accessible house. However, becoming an adult Patrick realized that being independent meant so much more.

“That was what independence meant for me, in a nutshell, for nearly a quarter-century," he shares. "The ability to walk, both with and without a walker, and have a great life growing up because I could get around my house. But there were also things I didn’t have to do growing up. I never had to take out the garbage, or do the dishes, or the laundry (I don’t think I could even get to our washing machine)."

man in a wheelchair holds a dog on his lap

"I never had to bring in groceries from the car," he continues. "We didn’t have a dog to walk. I was independent, but in a strange way, it was a limited kind of independence. Because my parents and brother lived in the house too, they could do those things for me.”

Patrick admits that today others might perceive him as being less independent as he once was. His definition of independence has changed as he has gotten older and has started a family of his own, with his wife, dog, and soon to be child.

“To the average person, I probably look less independent now than I was growing up, because I’m almost always in my wheelchair. But here’s the thing they don’t realize: using my wheelchair makes me more independent now, not less. That’s because the meaning of independence has shifted for me.”

Patrick is going to embrace the “fluidity of independence” as he moves forward in life. He encourages others to do the same!

What does independence mean to you? Share it with us at AbleThrive.

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