Living with disablement

My little sister Grace is 10 years old. She can’t walk or talk. She knows basic sign language. She gets around in a wheelchair. She couldn’t eat for years. She can only do for herself what the average one year old can. And the likelihood is, she’ll be like this for the rest of her life.

She has Global Developmental Delay (GDD), which basically means everything about her develops fine, but just at a slower pace. There are different degrees to which you can suffer with GDD but in Grace’s case, it’s equal to virtually no development.

I could sit here and speak of the difficulties surrounding her, but they’re obvious. She requires constant care from the whole family, like a young child. I’m not going to complain about it, we all understand and we all take care of her. It’s not Grace’s fault.

Rather I’d like to spend this article talking about Grace as a person. I remember being asked back in transition year by a man named Ian to name our inspirations. It got around to me and I named Grace. When asked why, I said it was all pretty simple: Grace gets what she wants and lives a happy life, despite the limitations that she has to deal with on a daily basis.

We all have things in life we feel hold us back. Money, our social circle, looks and intelligence but with Grace, it’s different. Her limitations are her disabilities, which are more serious than only having €30 on a night out, or a mate with no ambition. Yet, Grace is able to remain perfectly satisfied despite this.

Some may think living with a disability would be terrible. I look at Grace and all I see is joy. When she smiles, it instantly brightens the mood of a room. She has an incredibly infectious giggle. She’s a great person. She has basic needs and wants, sure, but she doesn’t let what she can’t do hold her back.

Ian said to me “So you obviously love your sister”, and I remember replying: “oh no, she’s all right…” well, you can finish that sentence yourself. She’s demanding, she’s loud, and when she wants something she will not leave you alone until she gets it, but this only adds to her charm.

She’s a real character, unafraid to express how she truly feels. I think this is often overlooked by people who look from the outside into families living with children like Grace. People who are disabled are more than just their disabilities, and some of them can be truly inspiring. She inspires me to be able to have a joke. She inspires me to see what is petty and what is important in life. Above all else, she inspires me to succeed at everything I do, no matter what limitations there are. She’s the reason I’m writing this. She’s my inspiration.


Alex Dunne

Image Credit: Darragh Culhane

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