Learning to Live For Me

So, my name is Amber. I’m 36, currently living in the Arizona and just graduated with two bachelors from Arizona State University in Art Studies and Design Studies, this past May. I was born and raised on Navajo reservation with mild Cerebral Palsy. I am wheelchair bound and have slight speech impediment, so my childhood consisted of the typical tasks of a disabled person; doctor’s appointments, physical/occupational therapy, speech therapy IEP meetings and the ISP meetings.

However, my parents (as in my mother and stepfather) knew that I was fully cognitive, so they fought and advocated for me to have an equal opportunity in life and to attend the regular public school, even though many of school administration had doubts and wanted to place me in Special Ed. Nevertheless, I proved to be a bright student in the top of my class.

Also, at a young age, my mother who at the time had a job the Arizona state’s Parent Information Network Services (PINS) for parents and guardians with children with disabilities in the education system, so she wanted me to start advocating for myself. We travelled all over the reservation and state as a mother/daughter advocate team doing keynote speaking and panels, and even travelled to Washington, when I was 14 to speak members of congress.

Life is all about transition and adaptation is the lesson I learned from my disability. The first time for me learning that was going to high school. Not only was I getting older, but also, I was going from a public school to a private school with a must smaller student body. That alone created a speedbump in my eligible services, but all was handled. Reflecting back to my 8th grade year, my physical therapist had asked what was a goal that I wanted to work on. I simply said to walk up to receive my high school diploma. So since then, for the following four years, Monday through Friday I had one hour therapy session until I reached my goal in 2003. Also, while in high school I was a basketball manager for all the teams and became a cheerleader for 2 years.

The next goal I had was to leave the nest like everyone else. I got accepted to my college of choice, my mother was more terrified and skeptical than my stepfather that I could live on my own. I went from a real small rural area to the big city five hours away. At first, I started living with family but not live completely alone in my own apartment. Sine then, I am completely vocal, I earned a certificate, 2 Associates degrees and now 2 Bachelors, all the while being the Vice President and President of the Native American Club and the Herberger Institute Student Council.

The next goal is to pursue my Master of Architecture, to start my own firm, specializing in accessible living. My life is about helping others but pleasing myself.