British Columbia

As girl with Down syndrome gets ready for grad, mom worries about support for disabled adults

Zola Auld is about to graduate, which can be scary for any teenager. But in addition to the usual "real world" apprehensions, her mother worries what life will be like for Zola when she ages out of the provincial disability supports.

"I feel that I am raising an endangered species," mother Ann Auld says

Zola (left) sits with her mom, Ann Auld. Zola is about to graduate from high school, and her mother worries about the level of support she will get as an adult living with Down syndrome in B.C. (Robyn Burns/CBC)

Graduation from high school is a time of great excitement, and also apprehension for most teenagers.

Zola Auld, a student at Reynolds Secondary in Victoria, is feeling both in spades, and so is her mother, Ann Auld.

I feel that I am raising an endangered species."- Zola's mother, Ann Auld

Zola was born with Down Syndrome, and Ann worries about her daughter's quality of life will be once she has left school and no longer qualifies for many benefits she received as a minor.

"I feel that I am raising an endangered species," Ann Auld told All Points West host Robyn Burns. "I absolutely am very worried. I'm very concerned for the Zolas of the world."

Ann Auld says she thinks the province is getting less hospitable for people with disabilities, and cited the changes the province made to the disability bus pass program in the 2016 budget as one example.

"What I'm sensing is there's a kind of siloing effect," she said. "It's creating a greater 'have not' scenario rather than a 'have' scenario."

Zola Auld shows off her grad dress. (Robyn Burns/CBC)
So instead of there being more equalization … the opposite seems to be occurring."

She says that parents of children with disabilities are often left to fend for themselves when it comes to finding supports for their children as they enter adulthood beyond fellow parents of children with disabilities.

"I … am carrying the sole responsibility for her well-being and her actual existence, going forward," she said.

For her part, Zola is focused on the excitement of graduation.

She says that at school, her favourite class is cooking, and her dream is to be a chef and cook Italian food.

She's also excited to see Shawn Mendes in concert in a few months, and, of course, for her graduation day and the dinner and dance to follow.

"You get to eat first and then dance your booty off," Zola said.

But Zola also knows how important her mother has been, and will be, in her life.

"My mom is pretty inspirational," she said. "I've always loved her. She's my honourable mama who desperately needed a child… because I desperately needed a mom."

With files from CBC Radio One's All Points West