As a mom of kids with disabilities, I have become passionate about all things disability. I am a strong advocate for my children in their schools and out in the community. I spend time educating myself and educating others on disability issues and supports.
I volunteer my time giving back to agencies that support individuals with disabilities. I read books and articles about disability issues. I spread awareness nearly every time I walk out the door.
My husband has also become passionate and vocal about these same issues. He reads books about disability. He spreads awareness to people he meets. He offers support to other families. He has joined me in teaching sessions for other parents.
Of course, as our children have grown, we passed along our passions to them. They volunteer with us. They attend trainings with us. They join in our conversations around the dinner table and in the car. They learn from our stories, our experiences, and our emotions.
Over the years, my children have made me proud with profound truths they’ve shared with others when discussing disability. At times, they are like a “Mini Me” as they repeat things they’ve heard my husband or me say. They have championed the efforts of disability advocates. My husband and I have visions of our children carrying on the torch of disability advocacy in their adulthood. And they very well might.
However, sometimes our children decide to take a different path, choose to have a different opinion. And guess what? We have to be okay with it.
As parents, all we can do is teach our children the values that we find important. We can lead them in showing kindness and dealing with others ethically. We can teach them priorities as they volunteer alongside us. We can teach them with our words and with our actions. We can give them rich opportunities to use their gifts and their voices.
Then we set them free. We let them become their own person and make their own choices. We watch as they find their own unique voice and play their own unique role.
Our children’s passions may very well end up similar to our own. But if they don’t end up sharing our passions and our opinions, it is okay. They will be uniquely them, and that’s how it’s supposed to be.
And guess what? We don’t have to apologize for their opinions or explain them to others. We don’t have to be embarrassed or ashamed if they don’t share our strong emotions about certain topics. Perhaps they were meant to carry a different torch.
But, parents, please note: if you’re a great disability advocate and your children don’t carry the disability “torch” after you, find someone else to train to be your successor for advocacy! We need their voices.
Here is a great article about how to advocate for children with disabilities.
Before I had my son, I was a special education teacher. I was one of those teachers who believed that these "special" kids needed to be kept safe. After teaching in a self-contained special education class, my views slowly started to change.