The Power of Maybe: A Father’s Story

June 10, 2024
Community and Inclusion
By Kindred
Screenshot 2024 06 10 At 1.24.41 Pm

Melo is Dad to two children; his youngest, Victoria, now 12, has intellectual and physical disabilities. Melo shares how another parent’s story provided the spark of inspiration, which led to opportunities in the local community that Melo never dreamed possible.

If someone had told me last year that Victoria would be going to Nippers, I’d have said, “tell ‘em they’re dreamin”. We’ve come a long way from those early days when Victoria received the long list of her diagnoses. Back then, we actually locked ourselves away. You see, Victoria doesn’t have an invisible disability, and as a tiny baby, she had a feeding tube attached to a pump, which would get blocked and start beeping. As it drew attention and people stopped and stared, it was hard not to feel uncomfortable.

A Bumpy Start

Over time, we tried a few activities, like dance and Girl Guides. But after explaining about Victoria’s disability, the common responses were, “There’s no space right now” or “We can’t accommodate your daughter’s needs”.

Some activities we found were logistically impractical, and even when we had managed to get Victoria into a program, it ended up not being the right fit. We thought she’d love soccer, just like her brother, she was certainly keen at home. But we quickly realised she didn’t enjoy the soccer club experience, she was overwhelmed, and there were lots of tears.

The Power of Maybe

While a lot has changed on our journey, I came to realise the most important change needed was in me. In how I saw my daughter and my thoughts about what was possible.

One day I was speaking to a parent who was telling me how much her son Dax loved Disabled Surfers. Knowing my daughter’s complex physical challenges, my instant thought was ‘There’s no way Victoria could do that’. But, then, watching a video and knowing Dax has significant mobility challenges too, I started to wonder… Maybe this was possible for Victoria? That simple act of asking myself what might be possible is what changed everything. Not, ‘will she, or ’could she’, but suddenly, ‘might she’ seemed to be enough!

Stepping Stones

Not long afterwards, at school pick-up, some of Victoria’s friends shared their plans for the weekend.“We’ve got Nippers, Victoria should come too!” And I remembered the video of Dax and the joy on his face, and thought, maybe she should.

After years of Rainbow Club swimming lessons, Victoria was now enjoying being in a pool. But the ocean, or even the bay with a moving tide is a different beast. As doubt started to creep into my mind, I caught myself. I wasn’t going to let my fears get in the way, not until we’d at least given Victoria the opportunity to see if she liked Nippers.

We decided to try Yellow Fins Nippers, an all-abilities program with significant experience supporting children with a variety of needs. So I was confident about their capacity to support Victoria. I would also be there to read and respond to her signals. Victoria would also be close to her friends from school as the two programs were run on the same beach.

Giving It a Go

That first week, Victoria was really anxious. But everyone was kind and so supportive as she sat it out on the sand. Even though she got close, she actually didn’t make it in the water. And yet, she came home raving about how much she loved Nippers.

There were more tears the following week, but patiently I reminded her that there was no rush and that maybe we could try standing close to the water… It took about 20 minutes, and she finally went all the way in… and loved it!

Then, the instructor asked her if she wanted to try the board. The answer was a firm no. After again giving her lots of time, she was happy to sit on the board on the sand, and then she was laying on the board, and eventually she was out into the open water. It was just amazing!

Beyond the Waves

Nippers is so much more than just an activity that Victoria gets to enjoy. It’s also about new experiences, and new connections, not only for her, but for us as a family. Afterwards, we head to a cafe and run into people from the beach. We know that if we can give her moments like that, then we’re all getting and sharing in those moments too, importantly as a family, out and about together.

Aside from the fact that Victoria deserves to be in the community as much as anyone else, her visibility helps people see disability differently. She’s already done that in her mainstream school, so if she can do that out in the community as well, then that’s great. My thinking is if people get to know her, they’ll be more accepting not only of her, but hopefully of the next person they meet with disability as well.

And while that’s not our responsibility, I really do want to pay it forward for other families. Because I know Victoria wouldn’t be doing what she is today, if it wasn’t for the parents who helped me see my daughter more fully. And inspired me to reconnect with hope and discover the possibility of a bright future for Victoria.

Screenshot 2024 06 10 At 1.19.56 Pm


Copy to clipboard