Inclusive Gratitude

What’s not to love about the concept of gratitude. It gives us balance in life. It makes us appreciate the people and things and creation that surrounds us. It helps us through hard times remembering all we have to be grateful for and certainly most of us have so much to be grateful for.

For me, and maybe other parents of disabled kiddos, it can throw me off balance. Sometimes, when I’m out with my autistic girlie for instance, I am so grateful that people smile at her instead of scowling or frowning or worse laughing. Grateful when they “allow” her to sit next to them or engage in conversation with her even when it may make them uncomfortable.

I was grateful for those who would touch  or bend down close to my Shannon to talk to her in her wheelchair knowing they might not get a response rather than simply ignoring her or worse curving their path around her as if she was contagious. 

I’m grateful when a server actually addresses my disabled kiddos rather than talking to me and ignoring them. I’m grateful when they recognize their abilities or lack of abilities doesn’t make them a child and speak to them respectfully adult to adult as well as giving them an adult menu rather than a child’s menu.

I’m grateful for general education teachers who “let” my girl take a dance or ceramics class like any other high school student. I’ve been grateful for the times any general education student made any effort whatsoever to contact my kiddos outside of school and can count the number of times that has happened on one hand. 

I find myself grateful for any number of things those who parent neuro-typical kiddos would never consider something for which they should be grateful. Its a given, routine for them, but for us its exceptional.

When I find myself grateful for the smallest kindness directed towards my kids I get angry with myself. I feel like I’ve done them a disservice by adding to the consensus that they are “lucky” to be allowed amongst those of us who are “normal”.  Perhaps it’s because when I grew up we quite literally locked a good majority of those with intellectual disabilities away so we wouldn’t have to see them and  be “disturbed” by them, a practice less common but certainly not unheard of still today.

True integration in all ways should be expected, but how will that happen when even I still look at my kids and think how fortunate they are to be “allowed” to navigate the world like everyone else. How about the fact that others should be grateful they have a chance to experience my kids. Perhaps they are the ones who should be thankful.

I need to work on expecting acceptance rather than being surprised by it. I need to acknowledge that all of us belong – regardless of our differences, any of our differences no matter how uncomfortable it makes some people, they have a right to be seen and experience all that everyone else has a access to. Whether due to race, ethnicity, religion, gender or any disabilities, being uncomfortable is a necessary part of the process of inclusion.

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