Special needs and independence

C.M. Denis

I took my daughter to the doctor yesterday. That’s nothing new. Ever since she was born with a brain injury 16 years ago, we have practically lived in doctor’s and therapist’s offices. Thankfully, now that she is older, we can go a few months between visits sometimes.

We hadn’t been to this particular doctor in three months, but we knew the routine. We enter the office, my daughter finds a seat, I go up to the reception desk and hand over my card. This time, though, the routine stopped there. The receptionist greeted me, we exchanged pleasantries, and then, instead of taking my insurance card, she asked my daughter to come over! I was a little surprised, but my daughter makes friends everywhere she goes, and it wasn’t that unusual for her to talk to the receptionist, so we went with it. My daughter got to the desk, and the receptionist exchanged greetings with her. But then a strange thing happened. The receptionist asked her for her insurance and id card! I stood there dumbfounded for a minute before it dawned on me. My daughter is 16! There was no reason whatsoever why she couldn’t check herself into the doctor’s office! I had simply never thought of it before.

That one single moment in the doctor’s office made me reevaluate quite a few things in our lives. From the minute we found out our daughter would need extra help sometimes, my husband and I had vowed never to underestimate her abilities. We would raise her to be as independent as she could possibly be, the sky’s the limit. Then, 16 years later, in a doctor’s office, I realized I hadn’t been doing that. It felt a bit like being slapped, but in a good way.

From now on, my daughter will be checking herself into her appointments. She will also be making them herself, and. refilling her own prescriptions. She will, in fact, now be mostly in charge of her own healthcare choices, because she is an intelligent, capable young woman who happens to have a brain injury. And my husband and I are now on the lookout for other areas in our lives where we have, without knowing it, underestimated our child’s ability to be independent.