Wednesday, September 8, 2010

learning independent living

My name is Dave Carl.  I am a social worker living in Washington State.  I was born with spina bifida and use a wheelchair full time.  As a social worker my focus is teaching independent living to individuals with disabilities of all ages.  I see independent living as something that is different for everyone.  It doesn't just mean living on your own in an apartment with a full time job.  It is a life long process.  When a child is very young they learn very basic daily living skills, as well as communication and socialization.  These skills are very important for future independence for a person.  Through my career I have heard many people say that they can't become independent because they have to live in a group home or have to have a 24 hour personal care assistant.  I tell them of course they can!  They can still make personal decisions (what to do, where to go, how to spend money etc.). I have several friends who need total 24 hour care.  I see them as role models.  Despite having physical obstacles, they are are just as independent as anyone else. 
I have faced obstacles throughout my life as I tried to become independent.  Anything from countless medical issues to education issues and even things as simple as getting around.  As a child I always had my parents or siblings around.  If I got stuck in the snow then someone was there to help or if I needed a ride somewhere then someone was there with a car.  As soon as I graduated from high school and went to college it all changed.  I didn't always have family around to help.  So how did I overcome this?  I learned how to use public transportation, and I learned how to ask others for help if I got stuck in the snow.  This is just one small obstacle I have faced.  A much larger obstacle I have faced, and still face today at times, is just coping with frustrations.  With all of my medical issues, and with my life being so unpredictable in general, life can get frustrating.  Several years ago I started writing stories.  Nothing too big, just what ever came to mind while I was laying in bed.  Eventually writing became more of a hobby.  I started writing stories while I sat outside during my lunch break or after work.  Earlier this year I had a children's adventure book published that I wrote called "Super Cyclist".  It is about an individual who has always used a wheelchair.  He follows his dreams of fighting crime by becoming a super hero who uses a handcycle to protect people.   As a social worker I am using the book to teach self confidence with the idea that just because someone says you can't do something doesn't mean that it is true, you need to follow your dreams.  I believe that self confidence is another very important part of future independent living.  Even though it is a little children's book, it took me a long time to finish with all of the obstacles I faced on the way. I have a website for the book: which describes the book and why I wrote it.
This blog is a way for people to share independent living stories.  Let people know what you do.  What kinds of obstacles have you (or a family memeber who has a disability) faced when trying to become independent?  What did you do to overcome them?  Also, what obstacles are you currently trying to overcome?  Feel free to ask questions to help gain the skills to overcome obstacles towards independence. 

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