Parents, home is the single most important place for our children to feel accepted. We must embrace ALL of our children with love and acceptance for being exactly who they are. Home is the first place our kids learn about being accepted and accepting others. It is our responsibility and privilege as parents to create a nurturing environment where each child feels valued, safe, loved and whole.
Our children are always listening and picking up on our feelings and attitudes. They’re listening to how we speak to them, about them, and closely watching how we react to other people who do the same.
When our children are young, we make decisions about where they go to elementary school, where they go to speech therapy, what doctors they see, and it’s our job to ensure that they are surrounded by others whose philosophies and actions value and respect them as people. The sad reality is there will be many situations where your child will be discriminated against because they have a disability. When any child grows up with acceptance for being who they are, they not only expect others to do the same, but they know no matter what happens elsewhere they are part of a safe, loving family who support and respect each other .
Acceptance means avoiding people and providers who indicate that their job is to fix your child , make your child “more normal”, help your child’s disability become imperceptible to others, or in any way convey that being disabled is a bad thing that must be overcome in order to be a whole person. It means avoiding people who say things like, “Jane won’t ever be able to do or learn x, y, z. ” It means avoiding providers who don’t speak to your child in an age appropriate manner or in a condescending tone.
Imagine how these negative attitudes and language impact your child’s sense of self. Actually, don’t imagine it, ask your child, LISTEN to the perspectives of adults with disabilities. Being the parent of a child with a disability is not the same as being disabled and we must listen to and educate our own children about the experiences of disabled people and disability culture. Just a few of the pieces and resources that have had a profound influence on our family; Michael Giangreco’s interview with Norm Kunc “The Stairs Don’t Go Anywhere !” and everything else on BROADREACH; “Dear Autism Parents” by Julia Bascom and everything else on Just Stimming ; everything by Ed Roberts; Keith Jones ; Larry Bissonette ; Tracy Thresher; Mia Mingus; Judith Snow; Ari Ne’eman Autism and the Ethics of Inclusion: A Matter of Civil Rights ; and many more. Listen to their experiences and opinions.
If any person indicates they have lower expectations, do not presume competence, uses functioning labels , does not value your child as a whole, complex, contributing member of society, it’s our job as parents to speak up and educate that person . It can be really hard to do if you don’t happen to have the type of personality that lends itself to confrontation, but it is necessary. If we allow someone speak to or about our child in a way that is anything but respectful, we’re not setting the right example. If our children see us speaking up, it’s much easier for them to do the same . My teenage son tells us it has had a big impact on his advocacy.
It is absolutely crucial that we carefully examine the attitudes and language of therapists, doctors, nurses and providers who work with our children. Their attitudes and language should indicate they view disability as the natural part of human diversity that it is . If they don’t and depending on how ableist their behavior is, you may want to give them the benefit of the doubt and try and enlighten them. Send them some of the articles and websites about disability by disabled people listed above. Maybe they haven’t read anything about disability culture, or the enormous amount of research indicating not only that high expectations and inclusion in one’s community are vital for each of us. Maybe they aren’t aware that treating each autistic person, each disabled person, with the same level of respect that they treat every other human is simply the right thing to do. Try and educate them, you’ll know pretty quickly if they’re listening and if they will try and change their mindset. If they can’t or won’t – switch providers. Limit your child’s exposure to people who are ableist. It matters. Acceptance starts at home.
Please don’t buy into the narrative of fear perpetuated by large “advocacy organizations” that don’t have the very people they claim to advocate for involved in their leadership. Try and stay away from the “My Life is Hard Because My Child Is Autistic” subculture so prevalent with some of the “Mom Bloggers” . It’s not acceptable or fair to publicly blame marital, health or financial problems on any child . Children don’t destroy marriages, cause illness, or financial ruin . They’re children.
Celebrate April with love, acceptance, and pride in your home.
Note : Apologies to the amazing Jean Winegardner at Stimeyland and to Autism Acceptance Month. Jean wrote an incredible post Acceptance Begins at Home last year. I read it, loved it, shared it, and it obviously influenced the title of this post. Both Jean and the folks at Autism Acceptance Month were incredibly kind and did not point out my plagiarism to me. Yesterday, I was reading ” Autism Acceptance : A Parental Perspective”, which is fabulous, by Beth Ryan ( Love Explosions, Parenting Autistic Children with Love and Acceptance) and started looking through some of the posts from last year and saw Jean’s “Acceptance Begins at Home”. Aww, how did I do that?