As a mom of a “ typical” child and a neuro-diverse child, I’ve spent my time in a careful balance of exposure and protection. I can’t make you care about my child with special needs, but here is why you should.
As my son with autism entered school, I cautiously let go and watched as he walked on down life’s path and into this next chapter. While we have met some wonderful families determined to invite our life experience to meld with theirs, I’ve also noticed a great divide.
I just sat in on a board meeting for our school as they planned special education provisions for the upcoming year. It was last on the meeting agenda which felt like eerie foreshadowing for what was to come and an indicator of their priority. I waited patiently for the subject to come up. It did and closed just as quickly. Just like that, without further efforts or thoughts. Did anyone on the board have questions? No, ok meeting adjourned.
My heart sank. My mind exploded. Where is the disconnect to explaining to the world that the “ us versus them” mentality not only stands to divide us but robs us of the opportunity to experience the beautiful things that diversity provides us with?
I will admit that before my son was born that I didn’t know the power of my voice. I automatically thought that the students and people who needed extra help would be afforded the opportunity. And, that complacency has contributed to the loneliness that my son feels in this world.
I can’t make you care about my son. Or the special needs programs in your state. The funding that makes them possible or not. The people who make these decisions with reckless abandon because it doesn’t affect their family directly.
But, let me make my case for standing up for a forgotten population. Diversity is around us. It’s beautiful and challenging to navigate but every bit worth the time. When we weigh down and hide or ignore the population with special needs we do a disservice to not only them but us. Exposing your children to children who learn, think, act and contribute differently than your child can open up a world of creative thinking, collaboration and understanding. How is integration and utilization of everyone’s talents a tangible dream if a part of the population isn’t included? We are perpetuating the belief system that they don’t matter because they are different. Purposefully or inadvertently.
This hurts our world. It divides us more. The benefits of having a friend in a child with special needs are:
- For typically developing children, inclusion teaches empathy, helping them to see people first and disability second; it also promotes diversity acceptance and can lead to increased academic performance. -Miami Herald, November 2017
In order to move into a world where no one is void, unloveable or useless, acceptance has to happen. No one is doing anyone any favors by staying neutral or sheltering their child from the experience of working out a friendship from two different standpoints.
My plea is that you stand up for injustice by writing local government officials in advocacy and solidarity. Ask your school about programs that allow and promote students of all abilities to work together for a common goal. Talk to your child about the importance of understanding that everyone has a talent or gift to share with the world not just children who are able to succeed in school.
These little things add up to profound impacts. It opens up a new world for a new generation. One where everyone can be appreciated.
I ache for this world. My heart breaks when I see complacency or avoidance. To me, this equates to agreement and acceptance to purposefully exclude someone.
We have the ability to refocus the attention. I hope we can do it. For my son.