It seems like every month is some sort of "Awareness Month." Don’t get me wrong, awareness is a good thing. But instead of spending time, energy, and money on big awareness campaigns for different disabilities, I believe there is a better way to make the community aware of our children’s disabilities.
Spend time out in the community. Period.
Yes, that’s my idea of an awareness campaign. Get out in the community. Be seen. Be heard. Every day.
Many times, families who have a loved one with a disability stay at home. Life with disability is isolating. Getting out and about with the amount of equipment needed to keep our children comfortable and safe is a lot of work and takes a lot of planning. Taking a child who has a mental illness or other behavior challenges out in the community is risky and takes much creativity, resilience, and courage.
But unless the people of the community see, experience, and hear our kids, they will never grow accustomed to them or their needs. Unless our kids are experiencing life out in the community, they will continue to stick out like a sore thumb every time we take them on an outing.
Do you ever feel like kids stare at your daughter? It’s because they don’t have any kids in their school classes that look like her.
Do you feel like adults are uncomfortable when your medically fragile child is around? It’s because they’ve never been around someone with those sorts of needs.
Do you feel like your family is as obvious and awkward as a neon sign when you try to eat in a restaurant? It’s because the people in the community don’t see our kids enough.
And the answer is simple: Be in the community.
Go to the movies. Go to the festivals and concerts. Take your child to the grocery store. Shop at the mall with your child. Take your child to church. Eat at restaurants as a family. Attend sporting events.
Take all of the necessary equipment. Let your child flap her hands or twirl in a circle. Suction your child in the frozen foods aisle. Sit in the middle of the sidewalk and comfort your child during his meltdown.
The world needs to see it.
Acceptance and inclusion won’t get any easier for our children unless the world gets more accustomed to seeing disability. The world won’t grow in awareness unless people experience our kids.
It won’t be easy. It takes work. It takes planning. It will mean leaving your comfort zone behind. But it’s the only way to really spread awareness that matters.
The truth is people who spend time with people with disabilities are not shocked or embarrassed by disability.
Want to spread awareness? Take your child to the movies.
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After my daughter passed away, I also lost my own identity and purpose in life. How do you go forward from there?
To advocate for our children, we must be informed and active in the decision-making processes—from local to state to national concerns. There are tools to assist in finding helpful resources.