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.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, we asked parents of children with disabilities and special health care needs to share their tips and stories about caring for their children during difficult times.