“You bring your children to us when they are broken, disfigured and flawed.”
These cruel and insensitive words were written in a letter that I had received a number of years ago. I couldn’t believe what I was reading. More shocking was that it came from a highly educated and trained professional who also revealed to me in the same letter that he had a son who had a disability. Was this how he truly felt about his son and all of the other children who were in his care?
To the contrary, we saw our son as someone who had a smile that would brighten up any room, who adored his grandparents, who appreciated a good laugh, who enjoyed swimming, and who loved swings and amusement parks. He liked going for walks and feeling the wind on his face. He went to school and travelled to many parts of the world. His favourite foods were pancakes, pasta and a burger from McDonalds.
The difference between the health care professional and our point of view was that we recognized our son for who he was as a person, not for his disability or limitations.
Families and professionals may struggle with their own bias and beliefs about people who have a disability. Our values and attitudes are shaped by our knowledge and experience, available information, media and the people around us.
The most significant influence is the child or the person who has a disability.
Be aware of what they like, and what they dislike. Acknowledge their strengths and give support when needed. Listen to what they are telling you, even if they are communicating without words.
Don’t be satisfied with status quo or “this is the way it is.” Read stories that inspire ideas. Have an open mind and learn.
Get to know the person and truly pay attention and let their courage and determination guide you as a parent or in your professional work. This will ensure that your fears and presumptions are not the barrier to growth and personal success.