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'My intellectually disabled daughter should be able to move out like other young people'

All I want to do is to try and give her a life of her own. I think she is entitled to that, writes Sorcha Ward.

Sorcha Ward Carer

ABOUT A YEAR before my elder daughter sat her Leaving Certificate, I came home from shopping one day and told her I had bought her a duvet for college. She asked if I was trying to get rid of her.

We had a good laugh about it, both of us knew this wasn’t the case. I explained to her that I was buying odd things now and then so that everything didn’t have to be bought at once. I suppose it’s what we call spreading the cost.

I also remember the second thing I bought for her: a funky pink bottle opener. I’m sure some of you are wondering who is the more mature here. But I’m quite thrifty and only buy what I know will be used.

That time of the year

It’s that time of year again. Thousands of our eighteen and nineteen-year-olds will head off to start a new chapter in their lives. It’s the way things should be. They and their parents have done what they needed to do to get them to this stage.

The excitement, apprehension, fears and tears and God knows what other emotions are at full throttle. Presumably none of us are sending them out without them knowing how to boil an egg. Don’t be silly of course some of us are.

There will be raw chicken taken from freezers and stuck into ovens expected to cook in 20 minutes. But it doesn’t matter because we know these young people will get on okay.

My other daughter

So let me tell you about my other daughter. She’s nineteen and has an intellectual disability. Does she have the opportunity to experience this great journey other young people her age experience? No, she doesn’t.

Should she be able to experience it? Of course she should. I’m not a fool. I am well aware of the additional supports my daughter would need to function in an environment similar to her peers.

In fact it wouldn’t be similar to her peers at all. Responsible adults would have to be on hand all the time. But why is the option of supporting a young adult with an intellectual disability not spoken about more?

I am not looking for everything to be free. Disabled people should have to pay rent too. But I do not have the resources or the expertise to provide the level of support my daughter would need if she were living somewhere independent of our family home. But because I do not have the resources myself should not automatically mean that she can’t move out like other young people of her age.

Looking into possibilities

How many young people disabled or not, want their parent’s slithering around them all of the time? In most young people’s eyes our jobs as parents are reduced to having the washing done and ready by Sunday afternoon and having some food in a cupboard that can be thrown quickly into a backpack, and maybe a few euro too.

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I have started looking into accommodation possibilities for my daughter, albeit reluctantly for obvious reasons. There is little my daughter can access outside of the rural area we choose to live in without her having access to her own transport or a public bus service. Neither of these is an option.

After a rigorous application process to get her name on the social housing waiting list, I have so far been told that the council are currently working with the HSE to provide an accommodation solution for my daughter.

I hate to be a pessimist, but this statement does not fill me with any enthusiasm of anything happening anytime soon. So you see, I do not know when I will buy her a duvet. By the way I’m not waiting hard to get rid of her either. All I want to do is to try and give her a life of her own. I think she is entitled to that.

Let us not put disability in the way of our young people achieving a level of independence for themselves.

Sorcha Ward is a carer for her daughter.

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About the author:

Sorcha Ward  / Carer

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