My daughter is on the autism spectrum. She doesn’t use spoken language to communicate. She prefers baby toys to things that other teenage girls might use to fill their time.
She seems largely unaware of any feeling of embarrassment or shyness when it comes to other people. She shows no interest in needing privacy or secrecy when it comes to self-care or dressing. I’m honestly not sure she would even notice or care if I sent her to school naked or half-dressed.
But I have decided that her dignity is important, that her modesty and privacy are vital. I will protect her privacy even if she shows no interest in needing it. I will protect her dignity even when she seems not to care. If I don’t protect her, who will? And I will set this standard for anyone who cares for her.
Teenage girls want and need privacy. They do not want their moms discussing their bodily functions or their progress through puberty. They don’t want their parents talking about their bathroom habits to other people.
Teenage girls don’t want all their secrets and private "girl stuff" talked about. And if it’s inappropriate and bothersome for other teenage girls, then it’s inappropriate and bothersome for my girl.
I cringe when I see parents post something on social media about their child with a disability that they would never ever post publicly about their children without disabilities.
My heart sinks when I hear parents discuss private toileting or care details with others. It’s no one’s business except those who are asked to care for the child. And we, as parents, should work hard to protect our children’s dignity by not talking about private things in public forums or with others.
If you have hygiene or toileting supplies, keep them covered so no one sees them. If there is an issue with hygiene or toileting that needs to be discussed, then do so in private and in a quiet private voice.
While I don’t think parents intentionally harm their children by discussing private topics, I do think parents should be aware of what is appropriate and what is not. I encourage parents to make a promise to their teenage or adult child that no one will know the ins and outs of their personal care unless it is necessary for that person to know.
I urge parents to stop and think before posting to social media. Ask your verbal child for permission to post it. Ask yourself, “Would I like it if someone posted this about me?” And if you wouldn’t like it, then let’s show our children enough respect not to post it.
It seems only fair and right. Our children deserve that dignity and respect. They deserve that dignity and respect even if they don’t act like it is important to them.
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.