Perception vs Reality II

I set the stage in Part I by describing a very small moment in time where I felt the oppression of another person’s perceptions. I wanted to give some context and history as well as approach the topic from both the viewpoint of parenting children who are able bodied and neuro typical as well as fast forward to my experiences as a parent of a special needs child.

In pre-social media and internet society, there seemed to be more discernment and a conscious effort to judge less, proselytize less and generally keep personal opinions to oneself, especially when it came to making a judgement about someone else’s circumstances.

I am in no way implying that the good ole days were so great. I am just acknowledging that our culture has changed and in many ways for the better. The mind your own beeswax mentality had its problems too, as many people suffered under a lack of transparency. Now we are shown a 15 second video clip which shapes our entire value system and in essence, the reality with which we base our entire system of beliefs. I am not here to argue those points, make judgments or say that one is any better or worse than the other. I merely noticed this subtle shift acutely as my life unfolded. I have experienced a lack of tolerance, acceptance and inclusion because of the very fact that people very freely react or respond based on a reality that fails to take a moment to theoretically walk in another’s shoes. 

I know that so many of us feel judged for the lengths we go to in order to advocate for our special needs kiddos. Most of us have experienced a public meltdown or a moment when it might appear to outsiders that our children are simply misbehaving. We are told how we should parent them differently. On the other side of the coin, if we seem frustrated or too hard on them, we hear about that too, or at least receive snickers of haughty derision. Our reality is that we are training our kids for a future without us which will likely be cruel and lonely. 

The reality is this: we can’t force typically developing behaviors on special needs children. We have to make adjustments in their lives. Sometimes, our kids need a chewy, or a tether (that horrified onlookers may describe as a leash). They might require a bib or may eat with their hands. Diversity may look different to those who do not row this particular boat, but it is imperative to the acceptance, freedom, independence and inclusion of those with special needs and the people who care for them. 

Even if devices, activities, behaviors or accommodations seem strange or even hostile, we need to encourage the public at large to curb their reactions, outrage and opinions. Our kiddos deserve to occupy community space and enjoy the freedom that accommodations provide for them. It’s okay for them to be seen and heard, even if that is uncomfortable for some or appears nonconforming for others. 

We have made great strides in acceptance and inclusion, thanks in no small part by exposing our stories and shining a light on our differences, and I do thank social media for that. Unfortunately when we force non typical children to live up to the expectations of societal norms, rather than celebrating their freedoms, we all lose. Our children first and foremost return to the confines of their disability and the people at large are deprived of the opportunity to be inclusive which can have a far reaching positive impact.

The opportunity to reach out to another person, and walk for a moment in their proverbial shoes increases empathy, empowers stewardship and challenges egocentric thought. 

Isn’t that what the world needs?

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