My birthday is where my story begins. For all of us this is true, but until now, I didn’t realize how true it was for me. You see from the moment I was born, I was the underdog. I was born, two months premature weighing 3 lbs, and having difficulty breathing. My parents were told the “next forty-eight’ hours would tell. I survived. At the age of two, I was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy (CP). My entire childhood became a never ending list of things I won’t achieve, given to my parents by professionals. At the time I began school, there was no law stating that children with disabilities had to be educated in the public school system. My parents went before the school board every year to, only to be turned down. However, due to the passing of a law called, IDEA, at the age of ten, I began my education through my public school system.
Though out my years of education in a segregated setting my parents were told again, and again of all the things I would never become or achieve. When I was accepted into the public schools, the principal of the segregated setting, told my parents, “She is not going to make it, she will fail, don’t be embarrassed when you have to bring her back.”
I made it and then some. I graduated high school in the top ten percent of my class. I received some scholarship monies toward college. I obtained my driver’s license, which is something else my parents and I were told would be beyond my capabilities.
Yet another thing my parents were told I would never achieve is to attend college or receive a degree. Well, as I stated, I got scholarship monies toward my college education, upon high school graduation, so once again, professionals were wrong, and the underdog struck again. Not only did I attend college and receive my degree, I attended graduate school and also received my degree. Dare I mention that I graduated both college and graduate school with HONORS.
The moral of my story is, the more someone told me, I could or would not achieve something, the more likely I was to achieve it. Being told I could not achieve something, especially before having the ability to try it, became a very powerful motivator for me. This was not only true when it came to professionals. Even though my parents were my biggest advocates, there were times in my life, where one or both of them thought I would not be able to accomplish something. This too became a huge motivator to succeed.
On the hand, it is worth noting that, I am a realist, and although I don’t think most things are impossible, as a full-time wheelchair user, I am aware that some (very few) things are. For example, the odds of my climbing a stair case, even when assisted, are slim to none.
Look where I am today, I am a Certified Life Coach; Parenting Expert; Facilitator/Public Speaker who assists frustrated parents turn Their VISION into REALITY! If you can SEE IT, you CAN BE IT! Imagine how different my life would look if I or my parents believed others were correct when they said I could not and would not achieve.
I attended Hofstra University where attained both my BA, and Master’s Degree. I received my Bachelor’s Degree, in Interdisciplinary Studies, with a concentration in Human Development, in 1992. Immediately following, I enrolled in the Master’s program. In 1995, I received my MS, in Education, with a specialization in Rehabilitation Counseling.
After attaining my degrees I went on to work in a variety of non-profit settings. Much of my vocational experience has been working with people who have Intellectual/Developmental Disabilities, people who are Mentally Ill/Chemically Dependent. I have also worked with clients who are dually diagnosed. I have also worked with many individuals coping with chronic medical conditions/disabilities.
I have assisted individuals in achieving their goals and attaining the life THEY envision for themselves. Some ways in which I helped with this, included but are not limited to: assistance with securing, and maintaining employment, coordinating all the services identified as needed by the individuals and their families, this meant helping them find programs, that would enable them to enhance their skill set needed, towards the goals they had. Goal areas included, Activities of Daily Living, Prevocational/vocational, Independent Living Skills, and ultimately, helping them live independently in the least restrictive environments.
I also have many years of helping people and their families with Transition Planning/Services. I have been trained in Person Centered Planning, which is at the core of by belief system. If you can SEE IT, you CAN BE IT! Helping, parents, educators, and young people turn Their VISION into REALITY!
I live in Long Island, New York, where I was raised. In 1999 I married the man, I believed to be the love of my life, and my forever life partner. While, that did not turn out to be the case, as we separated/divorced in 2011. In 2004, my ex-husband and I adopted the best present I ever got, or ever will get, our son.
Having been born with Cerebral Palsy, people who know me think it is my own experiences that motive me. This is somewhat true. Having to constantly prove my abilities to others, who often focused on my perceived deficits, made me strong against adversity. However, it is my son that truly inspires me.
MY son inspires and teaches me every day. Being his mom, has made me, and continues to make me a better version of me. My son, and the fact that I was born to help others, are what motivated me to turn my VISION into REALITY!! Become a Life Coach. My son was diagnosed with ADHD, a Severe Anxiety Disorder, and Irritable Bowel Syndrome. My son does not present like the typical child with these diagnoses. For this reason, it has been difficult for educators, medical professionals, and other people to understand his needs at times.
In almost eleven short years, I have had to advocate, and sometimes fight with others to get him what he needs. The ridiculous fact is that the fighting I had to do should never have had to occur. I had to fight those who should have been working with me all along. I had to fight the school system, teachers, principal and School psychologist to get him the accommodations he needed and are his right. Believe it or not I had to take his dad, my ex-husband to court, in order for him to agree to allow our son to take much needed medication.
The sad fact is that my son paid the price for the unnecessary delay in getting the help he needed because “professional” were fighting me. The school would say things like, “you are making home too fun, he can do the work, he just avoids takes he doesn’t want too, he appears fine in school (when he is here) we don’t see any of this behavior.
The behavior they were referring too included: Locking himself in the bathroom, and not coming out; crying hysterically I am not going, don’t make me go; laying In a fetal position on the coach or floor rocking back and forth. He would be saying don’t make me go. He would complain of physical symptoms, I would take him to the doctor who would say, he needs to get to school he is physically well. I agreed with doctor but when asked how he suggested I do that, he had no answer, equally unable to assist was the school.
The lack of understanding and assistance from professionals delayed my son’s getting the assistance he needed. Many times they got into the blame game. By that I mean, blaming me for not parenting right and not being able to force him to get to school. I had the double whammy of feeling like the worst parent in the world. I was disappointed in myself for not being able to successfully get him to attend school or to go anywhere for that matter, and the school staff was critiquing me and my parenting style. They were judging and suggesting, but they were not here, LIVING IT. They were depleting what little self confidence and self esteem I had left in myself as a parent down to nothing. Just when I thought things could not get much lower, I was downsized from my job.
After, a brief stint with anger and fear, I decided this was it; I was taking all the things that were occurring as a sign. It was obvious my son needed me around more. He needed my physical presents around more, working outside the home, was not going to be feasible at time. As a single mom, I needed a way to support him financially, while caring for his other needs. The leap of faith occurred. I decided to take a chance on my lifelong dream to help others in the manner they wanted me too and be able to be the best mom I could be. I decided to marry my two loves, being a mom and helping others.
I have felt so alone so many times throughout the last almost eleven years of parenting. I want no other parent to ever feel as alone as I have. It takes a village to raise a child(ren). We all need support. We should support others, not judge. We are not in their world; we do not know their specific circumstances.
This so this is how and why I decided to pursuit my dream to become a Certified Life Coach/Parent Expert; Facilitator/Public Speaker. It is my dream and mission to help other parents develop Positive Parenting Practices that work for them, their children and given the circumstances as they pertain to them, not society as a whole. It is my mission to make parenting styles as unique as we are as parents, as unique as our children are, and as unique as the situations we face with our child are to us. It is also my mission to increase self confidence of parents and remove the self-doubt that often impacts our effectiveness as parents.
Parents often get caught up in needing to do things the way others are doing them. My belief is that, this is driven by human beings need for acceptance/inclusion. There is no manual that spells out exactly how to handle a situation. Each situation is as unique as each of us. We need to develop strategies that work for us and our unique situations. We need to write our own manuals, for parenting, and becoming the parents we want to be. Our manual is written by US! Its purpose to turn Our VISION for OURSELVES into REALITY!
This is WHO I AM! And Who I continue to Strive to BE!
A huge shout out and thank you to my son, for continuing each day to make me a better version of myself. Thank you for motivating me and encouraging me to pursuit my ultimate dream. Most of all thank you for being YOU, and for giving me the gift of being your mom everyday!
© Sharon Birn, 4/4/15