My name is Gabrielle Guedon, and I am the Employment Committee Co-Chair for Oregon Self Advocacy Coalition. I like to give a voice to people who otherwise would not have one. My primary passions are my dog, OSAC, and working in the community.
I came to be involved with OSAC at a forum in 2014. At the forum, I met OSAC’s Chair Phil Stone and Jaime Daignault from the Oregon Council on Developmental Disabilities. During the forum, I was feeling frustrated that I wasn’t getting good enough tools and direction to reach my employment and independence goals. At the time, I was feeling depressed and anxious. I had just been told by Vocational Rehabilitation that I was “too disabled” to work for a second time.
However, I have always been vocal and interested in being an advocate. I was raised to earn my own money at a young age. I worked as a respite worker to earn money to pay for my cell phone bill and learn responsibility. In my darkest times in my life, I would go by the phrase, “If I could change one person’s life, the pain would be worth it.” My passion comes from the pain and experiences I went through, and that drives everything I do for OSAC.
I made a change in my life to get where I am today. I am independent, I own my own home, I have a car, and I have multiple jobs. I work really hard for my money and everything I have.
What was your school experience like? In looking back, what would you have changed or improved upon?
My school experience was really horrible; from elementary school to the day I graduated in 2008. I had hidden disabilities that were not taken seriously by teachers. I started walking out of school, and teachers wouldn’t do anything to stop me. Socializing was really hard too. Students didn’t know how to deal with me because I had a disability. Teachers did not refer me to the transition program, and this would have helped me greatly.
In looking back, I would have liked to have more knowledge of what was going on with me. I have severe anxiety disorder, but it was undiagnosed at the time. If I had known what I know now, my experience would have been different. My advice for a student going into high school is 1) to be sure that you have the resources and information you need to make your own decisions, and 2) to know how different choices will affect you. I would really encourage students to enter a transition program so that you learn how to cook, take the bus, create a budget, and learn other skills to better your life and be independent.
Who was your role model growing up?
My mother was a role model for me, my siblings, and her foster children. She was a case manager when I was younger and a single mother doing everything herself. My mom was always pushing me to make changes in my life. If I didn’t have my mom, I wouldn’t have reached my goals and be where I am today.
What is the one piece of advice you would give to a parent of a child newly diagnosed with a disability?
I would want parents to know how important is to give their child resources to be independent, even in the most minor ways. Resources, encouragement, and confidence can help someone live a much better life. Make sure that teachers and doctors take their child seriously. It’s important that children have the correct information so that they can be experts in their own lives. We don’t want our parents to do everything for us, because then we won’t learn. Let us fall, but support us to get back up.