An Open Letter to Moms of Children With a Disability or Special Health Care Need:
Please accept this letter from someone who didn’t know any better. When I saw your child with a disability, I didn’t know that I was underestimating him. I didn’t mean to be condescending.
I have since learned better.
I had no idea. I had no way of knowing. My experience is limited, and I didn’t know what I didn’t know.
My eyes were recently opened, and my understanding of disability grew instantly. My heart was touched. My knowledge was expanded. I know now.
I have not had the privilege to be in class with kids with significant disabilities, nor the opportunity to be friends or learn alongside kids with different abilities.
But I attended a meeting with my aunt recently. It was a gathering of parents whose children have disabilities. The topic was not one that interested me. I only attended the meeting to spend time with my aunt. But what I discovered there would change my outlook forever. I would leave the meeting amazed and intrigued.
You see, I had recently met my young cousin who has a disability. For the first time in my life, I became closely acquainted with someone who didn’t use their mouth to talk and whose legs were not useful for walking. I loved her immediately, but have only slowly been learning to understand her.
Her emotions and responses are sometimes a mystery to me. I have learned that she feels deeply. And while her mom is quite good at interpreting my cousin’s responses, I sometimes watch in amazement as I try to understand her more. I love and respect the person that she is. I am happy to be with her.
But that night at the meeting, my eyes were opened to the fact that my cousin and others like her think deeply, too. I just had no idea. As I watch her and others struggle to move their bodies, I didn’t know that their brains were full and interesting and active.
The meeting discussed reading and writing. The parents talked about communication. I listened and was amazed to learn from these parent’s stories that their children with significant disabilities could read and write. I realized I had underestimated these individuals.
There was also a young man at the meeting. He used a wheelchair. He did not talk with his mouth. He used a computer to talk to his mother and to the presenter. I was shocked that the man was following along with the discussion. I felt embarrassed that I was shocked. He was thinking. He was listening. He was more like me than I realized. His body didn’t cooperate with him, but he was smart and able.
It changed my perspective. It changed my view. It changed my thinking.
And I thought of your son. I underestimated your son when I saw him.
I hope I get a chance to learn from him someday.
For more, visit Outing the Prejudice: Making the Least Dangerous Assumption by Zach Rossetti and Carol Tashie.
Visit Family Support on this website to learn more.
Parenting a child with a disability can be one of the most joyful and rewarding experiences. It can also bring stress and anxiety. Increased, sustained levels of stress and anxiety can have negative effects on parents and their children.
Categories: Family Support