Monday, August 28, 2017

Parenting Kids with Disabilities: Inclusion vs. Accommodation

Previously on Parenting Kids with Disabilities:  Introduction / Accepting Your Child's Diagnosis / Helping Your Kids Accept Their Diagnosis / Accepting a Subsequent Diagnosis / Presuming Competence / Surgery / Adaptive Equipment / Public Interaction / Adapting / What You Can't See (Invisible Aspects of CP) / What Ableism Looks Like / Identity

Dear Parents,

"Inclusion" sometimes feels like a dirty word.

It's not supposed to be.  It's supposed to be this great thing.  This policy that means everybody benefits.  But when you are the kid being "included" and you know that nobody wants you there, because you "go so slow"?  It doesn't feel great.

I think it's because inclusion is usually something people have to do, not something they choose to do.  It often means more work for a teacher, and maybe it means kids have to spend time around a kid they usually wouldn't spend time around.

The thing is, as a former "included" kid, we can tell.

We can tell that we are a letdown.  The reason the rest of the kids can't do X.  The reason plans might change due to lack of accessibility.

When we grow up, we are keenly aware of the continual expectation to justify our worth.

Because being included means that we, and people like us, must have sufficient use and value to nondisabled people. We must constantly prove that our benefit to you outweighs the inconvenience of having us in your classrooms.  Not because we are human and deserve an education.  We are included because of what we can do for the nondisabled public.

Honestly, it feels gross.

ATTEMPTS AT INCLUSION:

In school, there were two places where "inclusion" felt especially forced, and especially isolating.  Gym class and recess.  And while not a lot could be done about the perpetual state of inaccessible playgrounds in the '80s, gym class was another matter.

It started with me doing adapted warm ups.  If the class was in a unit on team sports like floor hockey, I was either expected to join in with my crutches (a nightmare) or relegated automatically to the sidelines to "keep score."

I cannot tell you how many times I have been scorekeeper in gym class.  It's truly the most boring thing.  I watched all the other kids play and got to note when each side got a point.  When we played kickball, I was automatically assigned a "runner."  Running was the whole point of kickball.  Sometimes, I was in a completely different location than my classmates working on separate exercises altogether.  The complete opposite of being included.

So why am I talking about this in a series meant for parents?

Because I hope to shift your focus from inclusion to something that truly helps disabled kids feel a part of things and that is accommodation.

WHAT'S ALL THIS ABOUT ACCOMMODATION?

Everybody needs accommodations.

They do.

As nondisabled people, though, you don't need to think about all the ways you are automatically accommodated in society.  You can get into buildings.  Into bathrooms. Doorways are usually wide enough for you to fit through without trouble.  You can play sports if you want to.  You can travel without worrying if you'll be able to bathe or get into bed in the hotel.  Without worrying that your way of moving through the world might not arrive with you at your destination.  That it might arrive broken.

When your kid with a disability is out in the world, they are in a place that is not built for them.  And just because inclusion is the policy does not mean your child will be included.  It does not mean they will feel included.

As a kid, I didn't always know what kind of accommodations I needed in a given situation.  I just wanted to be able to participate in as similar a way to everybody else as possible.

WHAT CAN YOU DO?

If Possible, Send Adaptive Equipment Options on Gym Days:

If your child uses various adaptive equipment, and it's possible for you, consider sending options with them to school on gym days.  That way, if they're watching a movie in gym class, your kid having their crutches wont be a big deal.  But if they're playing kickball, they'll have their walker.  And if the kids are playing floor hockey, your kid can have the stability of being in their wheelchair.

Communicate with Your Kid's Teacher(s):

Let your child's teachers know about your whole child.  How they best learn.  What they need to be successful in the classroom.  If your child has an IEP, check that it is being followed.

Communicate with Your Kid:

Ask them what works best for them in a given situation and take them seriously when they tell you.  Work on skills like asking for help when necessary and regular kid stuff, like how to ask another kid to play with them.  (Sometimes this social stuff gets missed when your kid has a disability.)  You can do this by playing.  Have your child's doll or action figure ask yours if they want to play.

When Possible, Give Your Kid a Heads Up About What is Coming Next:

If science class means your kid is going to be going outside during class, that's something your kid will want to know so they can start thinking about how they can adapt.  They may need time to get used to the idea of doing something new.

If there will be a field trip or any new environment that your child will need to navigate, ask their teacher about the possibility of sending a video or pictures.  (Is your kid going on a field trip to somewhere that has a website?  Ask for that, and look at pictures and videos with your child.)  For nondisabled people, who have no trouble navigating in a new environment, you likely don't need a heads up about these things because you already know things will work for you.

Being able to see physical places and details beforehand can help you and your child figure out ways they can move from place to place in as stress-free a way as possible.

Find Ways for People at School to Meet Your Child Where They Are:

Know that just being in a classroom with typical kids is not enough.  Your kid is going to want to feel wanted there.  Welcomed there.  But often your kid might be left out.  One of the best things other kids can do is to ask yours if they want to play or be in their group for a project.

If your kid is comfortable, you could go in and speak to the class about your whole child.  Addressing disability is necessary, but so is discussing all the ways your child is just like the other kids in class.  Normalize disability and emphasize it is not sad.  That your child is used to living the way they do, and it feels normal for them.

[I love this picture, because it shows just how seamless accommodating can be.  My sis and I are 16 months old.  I'm in a baby walker, and my sis is standing next to it, having brought a doll for us to play with together.]

No More, No Less:

Keep in mind that, likely, all your kid with a disability wants is to experience school in as similar a way to their peers as possible.  No more, and no less.  So keep that in mind when considering accommodations.

Ask yourself questions:

What is the goal?

What accommodations does my child need to successfully attempt or accomplish this goal?

Involve your child in these conversations.

If your child is nonverbal, know it is still possible to include them in conversations that concern them.  You may have to rephrase questions (maybe to a yes/no format, for example). Remember that behavior is communication.  And remember that your child may need time to process your questions and / or think about what their answers are.

But as your child is the one who needs the accommodations, don't forget to involve them.  Listen.  And respect whatever they are able to communicate.

Accommodating your child's needs communicates respect for them, whereas inclusion often feels like it is rooted in a reluctant sense of duty.  I think all of us would always rather be treated with dignity, than as an obligation.  I hope these tips help you make the world a bit more accessible for your child.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Review: The Fosters 5x07 "Chasing Waterfalls"



Time for another twin recap of The Fosters. Jesus was absent this episode, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have plenty to say about him (and also some thoughts on Grandpa Adams as well.)
STEF AND GABE - YARD:
Stef: Hey! Just wanted to give you a heads-up that Jesus won’t be able to work with you today.  He’s being assessed.  I had to drop him off at the school at about 6:30 a.m.  It was brutal.
Gabe: Oh.  I mean, it’s good news, right?  That he wants to go back?  
Stef: Yeah. Um, did you and he talk about Emma lately?
Gabe: Yeah, sure. I mean, a little.  He made her a ring the other day.  
Stef: A ring?
Gabe: Yeah, ‘cause they’re going steady or whatever.  He wanted to give her something, so he made her a little wooden ring.  
Stef: Oh. Okay. 
Tonia:  6:30 AM is brutal for IEP testing.  
Also, seems like The Fosters skipped a major step which is Jesus being evaluated in school to see if he qualifies for services.  This process usually takes up to two months.  I understand streamlining for TV’s sake.  This is really more a comment on the fact that Jesus should have been in school already.  
(On an unrelated note, I love how Gabe says that Jesus and Emma are “going steady”.)  He is clearly from my generation…and now I feel super old.)
Tara: It was brutal for Jesus to test that early?  Or for Stef to have to drop him off that early?  Because I’m pretty sure Jesus has the more difficult part of this scenario.
From what I can gather, the assessment Jesus is being given is likely a neuropsychological assessment.  The testing can take anywhere from 2-6 hours according to the article.  (According to comments made to the article I linked - by people who have had the assessment - testing can take anywhere from 1.5 - 12 hours.  Several said they needed 1-2 weeks to recover afterward.)  The assessment measures things like memory, problem solving, attention, concentration and intelligence.  It can identify areas of difficulty as well as strengths.
This process includes an interview as well as the tests themselves, and it is recommended that a family member or close friend accompanies the person being tested.  This is not only for emotional support, but to provide necessary information and also to request breaks if need be.  (I know that if I had had to take this test, someone would have been there for me - and not just to drop me off.)  
This assessment represents a significant milestone and a likely hardship for Jesus.  The choice not to show the audience this takes away yet another opportunity to humanize Jesus.  
Let’s contrast this choice with a scene from Glee.  (Ryder gets Evaluated for an IEP) In this clip, we see high school sophomore Ryder undergo testing for a learning disability.  We get to be in the room with Ryder - feel his stress and shame and anger - and later, we see that his glee club director Finn has been waiting for Ryder.  Finn is there to listen and reassure Ryder after the testing and diagnosis.  We see Ryder’s tears and exhaustion.  We as an audience were not given this privilege with Jesus.
Moving on, Stef and Gabe talk about Jesus and Emma.  The “little wooden ring” comment feels patronizing.  Would the same comment be made in the same tone if Jesus did not have a brain injury?
STEF AND LENA - KITCHEN:
Stef: Hey, I know we said we wouldn’t make a big deal about Jesus and Emma’s betrothment or whatever, but he gave her a ring.
[Mariana, in the next room, overhears this.]
Lena: A ring? What, like an engagement ring?
Stef: No, no.  Not an engagement ring.  It’s a going-together ring.  It’s made of wood.  
Tonia:  Wow, Stef, how dismissive can you be?  (Her tone sounds almost disgusted???)
Tara: If Brandon were to have handcrafted a promise/engagement ring for Grace, it would not be delegitimized because it was wooden.  He would be asked if he was sure about his decision.  Asked about finances.  Housing.  Schooling.  Work.  But the ring itself would not be trivialized in this way.
Lena: Are you sure that’s all it is?  Because he told me that the only reason he wanted to go back to school was because Emma wouldn’t marry him unless he did. 
Stef: Yeah, I don’t -  I think it’s just Jesus being Jesus.  Emma’s got a good head on her shoulders.  I don’t see her agreeing to something like that… Right?  
Tonia:  It’s just Jesus being Jesus.  What does that mean?  If it’s a comment on his tendency to be impulsive, the same could be said for Mariana or Callie, but nobody says that’s just them being them.  My gut says it’s yet another way for Moms to dismiss Jesus…
Tara: So, basically Stef is insinuating that Jesus doesn’t have a good head on his shoulders.  That proposing was not something that he carefully considered, but one more rash and reckless decision.  That Jesus’s brain injury means that everything he does or says is inherently foolish until proven otherwise.
FAMILY DINNER - LENA’S PARENTS + FAMILY (EVERYONE PRESENT EXCEPT JESUS):
Lena: So, Jesus is exhausted.  He’s been doing testing all day, and with his TBI, it’s just a lot for him.  So, I told him he could go ahead and keep sleeping.  I hope that’s okay. 
Dana: Of course, sweetheart. Absolutely.
Tonia:  I totally get that Jesus is exhausted at this point.  Realistic, and I do want him to keep sleeping.  But I am so sad we didn’t see him interacting with Grandpa and Grandma at all, and they were here for the entire weekend.
For reference?  This is what we missed:  (Jesus and Grams talking)  Back in season 4, Grandma and Grandpa Adams came to visit, too.  The above was a deleted scene from that episode.  They have such a beautiful, respectful dynamic.  I was so excited to see Jesus have the chance to be around that for a few days, and so sad that he wasn’t shown interacting with them once.
Which leads me to my second point.  I got the feeling here that something was amiss with Stewart and that a deliberate choice was made to not have Jesus in these scenes with him, one way or another.  
I understand that the issue was likely something like illness for Noah (the actor) that prevented him from being present during this episode, or perhaps it was known ahead of time that he would need this time off for some reason.  The fact remains, though, that this is the story the writers chose to tell with Jesus being absent.  The story of Lena’s dad also dealing with a change in his health, and a brain-related issue.  (They don’t specify if he has dementia or Alzheimer’s, but based on symptoms it seems that it could be either.)
And I could not shake the feeling that Jesus was left out of this episode in particular because of the notion of “too many” disabled people being present in a scene.  The feeling that it would be “too messy”, “too risky”, or “too sad” to have both Jesus and Stewart present in scenes when Stewart is also experiencing difficulty.
But the truth is, an opportunity was missed there.  Because disabled people exist all over.  (20% of the population - 1 in 5 people - live with disability.)  My sis and I are both disabled (both with different extents and presentations of brain damage and brain injury) and it is not too many or too much.  We ask each other for help.  We adapt for each other.  We apologize when we mess up.
The writers missed an opportunity to tell a human story here.  Of two people in a family living with disability.  Maybe Jesus and Grandpa wouldn’t have felt the need to talk about it.  Maybe they would’ve found it difficult to be in a house with extra people, noise, a less familiar environment (for Grandpa) but maybe Jesus and Grandpa would have gotten the chance to sit and talk to each other.  Maybe they could relate based on disability.  Maybe not.  Maybe they could have helped each other out or made suggestions.  Or maybe, Jesus and Grandpa could just have known that “Hey, here is one person who gets what it’s like.  Who gets that I’m me.  That I’m doing my best all the time.  That this is new and scary.”  Maybe they wouldn’t have needed to discuss disability at all because being around each other would have been enough.
But the truth is, we will never really know.
Tara: Yes, it is completely realistic for Jesus to be exhausted cognitively and physically after this assessment.  However, if he is exhausted by hours of relatively “simple” tasks like picture-vocabulary identification and word recall, then how much more exhausted should he have been by taking a 3.5 - 7 hour proficiency test measuring 12th grade reading, writing and math with no accommodations?  
Tonia:   For the people in the back, Jesus is not even a high school senior yet.  He is a junior.  He was literally being tested on material he has yet to learn.
Tara:  With a brain injury, especially within the first few months, you do not get to choose which tasks and tests exhaust you.  Because everything exhausts you all the time.  
Also, let’s factor in that Jesus has just taken this proficiency test.  I would hazard to guess that no more than a couple of days to a week at most has passed since last episode.  His brain is super overloaded and fatigued even before the NPA.  And while the NPA is apparently needed for accommodations and going back to school, the proficiency test was just abusive nonsense.  Both in such short succession make me want to cry.  People do not realize how harmful this is.
And can we talk about Lena asking Dana if it is “okay” that Jesus is too exhausted to come down for dinner?
This touches on the phenomenon of Authorization.  Often, a disabled person’s symptoms or limitations are not viewed as legitimate until a nondisabled person deems them legitimate.  
Is it okay that Jesus is so cognitively and physically fatigued that he cannot come downstairs for dinner?  In other words: Do you give him permission to be exhausted? 
Let us think about the possible answers to this question.  Dana says yes.  It is okay.  
But she could have said, “Oh, he really should come down to eat and visit with us!”
Jesus would be forced to push past his exhaustion - walk downstairs, expend energy eating, attending, sitting, talking, being in a bright and loud environment - for the comfort and preference of his nondisabled family members.
FAMILY DINNER - CONTINUED:
Dana: So, what else is going on with this beautiful, bustling family?
Mariana: Well, Jesus is engaged.
Tonia:  We see Jesus discussed throughout this episode, but he is never present.  This is a common inspiration p*rn theme known as Gawking Without Talking.  He does not have a speaking part.  
This is different than Jude not being in an episode, for example.  (For one thing, we know that Hayden who plays Jude is still a minor and is not allowed to work as many hours as his adult co-stars.)  But it’s also different because stories about disabled people are very often about the nondisabled people around them, not the disabled person themselves.  
The next time you see a headline about a disabled person, and you click on it, read it carefully.  Ask yourself questions:  
Is the disabled person named?
Are they quoted in the story?  (Do you know how they feel about the events that happened, and the fact that those events are now being written about?)
If there is a photo, is it of the disabled person in a vulnerable position (needing to be fed, crying, or otherwise needing help?)  Did they know the photo was being taken?
When Jesus is exclusively talked about and never shown on screen, it feeds the perception that he is an outsider.  That he is not at the center of his own story.  This episode takes place over about three days and we don’t hear one word from him, despite being in his and Jude’s room for scenes all three of those days.
Tara: Yes, and for Jesus to be so overly exhausted but not in his room?  Or for him to be in there while Jude and his friends play games and visit?  It doesn’t make a ton of sense to me.
LENA, STEF, DANA & STEWART - LIVING ROOM:
Dana: So, [Jesus] is only going back to school because of this girl?  That’s absurd! 
Lena: Mom, we need something.  Something that matters to him.
Dana: You have something that matters to him.  The treehouse.  Maybe Jesus needs to actually DO SOMETHING to EARN the privilege of building it!  Like getting an education!  
Lena: Mom, if we take away that treehouse, he’s only going to think we’re punishing him.  And we will have a full-blown rebellion on our hands. 
Stef: I agree.  If we use it as leverage, he’s going to hate us forever.
Tonia:  This conversation seems unnecessary / irrelevant to me.  Jesus is going to school.  He spent several hours today being assessed to go back.  There’s no need to talk about taking away things that matter to him.  (Or for Grandma to go out of her way to say a choice of Jesus’s - based on secondhand info - is “absurd.”)  
Tara: So, Dana wants to use Jesus’s one pleasure as leverage to further control him? I’m glad Moms see the harm in this, even if they cannot see the harm in their own controlling and/or abusive actions.
CHALKBOARD - KITCHEN:
*gluten free snacks
*almond milk
*bananas 
Tonia:  The sight of gluten free snacks on the shopping list made my stomach drop.  If Lena is moving forward with this, chances are very good that she is also still pursuing the shock therapy clinical trial in LA for Jesus.  (Remember that the last we saw on that topic was Lena bringing it up with Tess, and Tess offering to put in a call to that doctor, to get Jesus moved up the year-long waiting list.)
Tara: To me, seeing gluten free snacks on the shopping list just drives home that Moms still do not accept their son as he is now.
NO phones at dinner!
Chores:
Callie/Mariana - dinner prep
Jude - trash
Brandon/Jesus - dishes
If you think my hands are full, you should see my heart.
Tonia:  I was encouraged to see that Jesus was included on the household chores with the other kids (because I was often left out of specific chores due to them taking me longer to complete.)  I was mostly glad to get chores to do, because it allowed me to feel like part of the family.  
But, Tara, I’m curious. 
Did you have energy for household chores at this point?  In your opinion, is it fair to expect Jesus to contribute to a household chore like this, given his current level of recovery?
Tara: Honestly, every brain injury is different.  For me, I do not think I had much energy for anything beyond the basics at approximately 2 months out.  I would hope that the others would understand and help out when needed, if (like the previous night) chores were too much for Jesus for whatever reason.
BRANDON & GABE - YARD:
[Brandon walks into the yard, trips over Gabe’s tool bag]
Brandon: You should be more careful with these!  Someone could get hurt!  Like Mason!
Gabe: Sorry.  Listen.  About the other night.  I didn’t know you still had feelings for Cort.
Brandon: No.  I don’t.  It’s not that!  It’s just…be more careful!  Otherwise Mason’s gonna end up with a nail in his head like Jesus!  It’s dangerous with all this shit lying around here!  
Tonia:  I mean…I actually feel like this is really realistic.  That Brandon would bring up Jesus’s injury and the danger of the tools, after tripping over them himself.  It just drives home the point, though, that Jesus is (again) being discussed, but he’s nowhere around.
Tara: Or… I don’t know… You could watch where you were going?  
And Gabe did not shoot Jesus in the head with the nail gun.  Equating Jesus with Mason is also not the best comparison to make, Brandon.  Jesus chose to use the nail gun knowing the risks without supervision.  He was not then and is not now a toddler.  So, let’s just stop while we’re ahead, shall we?
THEMES WE NOTICED WITH REGARD TO STEWART:
Tonia:  A theme I noticed with regard to the dementia/Alzheimer’s storyline with Stewart was respect.  When he and Dana are at dinner with the family and he asks Jude to pass the asparagus (for the second time in a row) Jude says, “I already did, Grandpa.  It’s right there.”  Jude’s tone is respectful.  He makes sure to point out where the asparagus is, to be sure Grandpa sees it.
(Contrast: Jude’s behavior when Jesus came home from the hospital.  The patronizing “good job” he said, when Jesus drank from a glass.)
Later in the episode, Stewart buys the family a car, after hearing Mariana and Brandon argue over who could use the one all the kids share.  Dana is upset and says they can’t afford it.  Stewart says it’s okay, he has a big bonus coming at work.  Dana tells him, “You’re retired, love.”  She doesn’t hesitate, in this moment to tell him the full truth.  We, the audience, also know, based on her tone and the words she chooses to use, that her love for her husband remains the same.
(Contrast:  Dana’s reaction to hearing that Jesus “was only going to school because of that girl.”  Grams thought that was “absurd.”  This is a marked change, too, from the woman who lovingly told Jesus pre-TBI that “there are so many…ways to be smart,” and that he’s “going to figure out exactly what he’s good at.”)
After Lena finds out that her dad has been experiencing this change in his health, she goes out to speak with him.  Asks if somebody came to pick up the car.  He says, they have.  Lena apologizes genuinely to him for the fact that they can’t keep it.  Then they sit down together.  Stewart shares with Lena that he regrets his reaction to her when she came out (”I still love you”) as it communicated that his love for her was conditional, which it wasn’t.  He tells her he should have said he was very proud that she knew who she was and that he couldn’t wait to meet the person she wanted to spend her life with.  Lena remembers how he always took time with her to watch cartoons before work, even if he was at risk of running late.  She knew that was “their time” together and she thanked him “for being a really good dad.”
We see that Stewart has tremendous love for his family.  He cares so much that he is righting mistakes he made decades ago with Lena.  And we see that Lena’s love and respect for her dad remains intact, despite the fact that she has just learned of this new development with his health.  She takes time to sit and talk to him about what matters.  About good memories.  About things he has done that she appreciates.
(Contrast:  Almost every single interaction Lena has had with Jesus post-TBI.  Including but not limited to: threatening Jesus with institutionalization, looking into shock treatment as a “cure” for his brain injury.  Humiliating him when she realized he couldn’t read.  Isolating him socially.  Not allowing him to go to school and then manipulating him back into school by having him take a 3.5 hour long proficiency test with no preparation or accommodations, in hopes that his deficits would cause him to fail.)
Tara: A theme I noticed in regards to Stewart’s storyline was pity.
We see Stewart’s deficits painted as tragic and not an expected part of the aging process.
Moms go from wanting to take Stewart’s name off the title to leaving it on and agreeing to pay back interest they never owed, because they find out about Stewart.  They feel bad for him and view him as less capable and less human.
Moms tell Dana she will need money “for care for him,” and that they want to help.  Dana nods.  This feeds the notion that disabled people are expensive burdens to be pitied, instead of human beings in our own right.  Worthy of existence because of our humanness.  Not because of what we can or cannot produce that society would value  
It may seem odd that respect and pity can exist side by side, but this is often the case in a disabled existence.  Respect can be present and strongly felt, and then in the next moment, it is replaced by pity because life is so hard for disabled folks.  
Disabled life can be hard.  So can nondisabled life.  
Challenge the harmful notions that society and media perpetuate. 
Thank you, as always, for reading. 

Monday, August 21, 2017

Like Looking in a Mirror, Part 3

Maybe someday the novelty of spending time around someone who is just like us will wear off...but it hasn't happened yet.  Maybe you were reading in the winter of 2015 when we first met, or the summer of 2016 when we read some poetry together.

This time, for the first (real) time, we got to travel to her.

[Image is: Us looking at my phone together]
We celebrated.  Laughed.  She took tons of silly selfies.  Showed me all about camera filters.  We took pictures together, and have 6 glorious seconds of video which shows all three of us screaming, "No!" when my sis realized she had accidentally hit 'video' instead of taking a picture.  

We talked about middle school.  About slime.  About Slinkys.  About whether our brothers also have CP.  (They don't.)  

Her reaction to finding this out was the best thing I have ever heard:  

"Oh.  That's sad."

She spent time trying to figure out which of us she is most like.  I think she's a lot like Tara in personality, and gait, but as for a physical resemblance, this kid could be my mini me.  It's so wonderful.

Just being together is so powerful.  There is nothing better than that feeling of belonging that comes with being where "your people" are.  If you get to do this all the time, notice it.  Breathe it in.  Don't take it for granted.  It is beyond amazing.

As amazing as the moment when, she said, very matter-of-factly:  "I don't know how to describe you guys.  Are you friends?  Or are you family?" 

Parenting Kids with Disabilities: Identity

Previously on Parenting Kids with Disabilities:  Introduction / Accepting Your Child's Diagnosis / Helping Your Kids Accept Their Diagnosis / Accepting a Subsequent Diagnosis / Presuming Competence / Surgery / Adaptive Equipment / Public Interaction / Adapting / What You Can't See (Invisible Aspects of CP) / What Ableism Looks Like


Dear Parents,

When you think of your child's identity, what comes to mind?  Their color?  Their gender?  Maybe it's not something you think of much, because your child's identity - in many ways - is still forming.  But, if your child has a disability?  That's also an important part of their identity.

When I was growing up, I hated talking about CP.  I still have a hard time saying the whole diagnosis out loud (or writing it) because the first person I ever heard pronounce it correctly was a teacher that was super ableist.  I honestly just preferred that no one talked to me about it at all.  Ever.  Because I didn't identify as disabled.  I identified as nondisabled.  I was "just like everyone else" to me.  I was surrounded by nondisabled kids and adults.  It was the only example I had for what I thought people should be.  So I hated that I stuck out.  I hated that I had something that made me different.

It felt exclusively negative to me.  Like a giant eye staring at me because I was "that girl" with CP.  I never saw myself represented in the media, and if I did, the character was tragic.  One dimensional.  A plot device to pull at the heartstrings of nondisabled audience members.  Well, meanwhile, I felt like nothing and had to look away.

[Image is: Me at age 8.  I'm standing with new crutches but not looking directly at the camera.  My smile is uncomfortable.]
Chances are, your kid just wants to feel like they are not different.  And that's valid.  I think a lot of the reason why nondisabled kids have more self esteem and less mental health issues than kids with disabilities is that they are almost exclusively surrounded by people like them.  Where for us it's rare to find "our people."  And the people we do find, we might not have a lot in common with, so we resent being grouped based on disability alone.

If your child is uncomfortable talking about their disability, first and foremost?  Respect that.  Don't force them to talk about it with you (especially if you are nondisabled.)  Take their cues and let them lead the way.  Let them bring it up.

That doesn't mean never talk about it again.  Because that does imply shame, and if your child can't stand to hear the name of their disability spoken out loud, they are already feeling a lot of it.

So what can you do?

Try Speaking About Other Kids or Adults with Your Child's Disability...Positively:

Are you friends with someone who shares your kid's diagnosis?  Try talking about them in a flattering way:  "Yeah, he got the coolest orange wheelchair!" or "She told the best joke!  It was so funny!"  Hearing you build up others like them will take the pressure off your kid, and it will also allow them to see that "Mom or Dad or Grandma really likes hanging out with people like me."

Find Genuine Ways to Compliment Your Child That Don't Ignore Disability:

"Maya, You tell such great stories!  I love how you use your whole body to act them out!"

"Noah, You're so smart!  You're always figuring out ways to bring your toys with you!"

"Stephanie, You care so much about how other people feel.  You're a  great friend because you never want anybody to feel left out."

Find Examples in Media of Kids Like Yours Doing Something Your Kid Enjoys, Watch Them Together:

Kennedy YouTubing

Fox Sewing

Sami Doing Her Cousin's Makeup

Atticus Skating

Brooke Dancing

Sparsh Singing

Rhema on Bars and Beam (Gymnastics)

Give Your Kids Opportunities to Connect to Other Kids Like Them:

Growing to embrace their disability as a part of their identity is a process.  It will not happen overnight. But something that will help them get there is the opportunity to really connect to other kids like them.  Do you have a family camp you attend every year, geared toward families of kids with disabilities?  Great!  Did your kid make friends with the kid next door who has Down Syndrome like them?  Amazing!  Nurture that friendship!

Pay Attention to How Your Child Is Treated Both at Home and Away From You:

Is your child getting the message that you respect them?  Do your actions communicate respect?  We know how important it is to tell kids they are loved, but kids with disabilities also need the message that they are respected.  Unlike with nondisabled kids, respect is not necessarily a given.  So tell them:

"I respect you.  Your feelings matter.  You deserve to be treated in a way that makes you feel safe and happy to be you."

Make sure your child knows they can come to you if someone at school or other places is singling them out for their disability.  Ask questions, often, like:

"Do you feel safe at home/school?"

"Do kids (or brothers and sisters) treat you the same or different?"

"Does the teacher (or Mom, Dad, other family members) treat you the same or different?"

"What's fun at home/school?"

"What's not fun at home/school?"

But also know, they might feel sad and ashamed.  So pay attention to how they act when they get home from school or another location.

If your child is nonverbal, keep working to find whatever communication method will work for your kid.  Know that behavior is communication and receive it as such.  Stop in unannounced if you get a feeling that things aren't right.

Your Child Needs You to Be Okay With Their Disability:

So be mindful of how you talk about it.  (Does it mostly come up in conversation for being negative?  Does it come up in conversation solely as an obligation?  Do you feel bad your child can't do X?  Your child probably knows it.)

So practice discussing disability positively.  ("Your disability means you have connections to lots and lots of people who are like you.  They move like you/look like you/speak like you and that's great!  I love you so much that I'm going to keep looking until I find them.  Because I don't want you to feel alone."

Know that in many cases, if asked if we could get rid of our disabilities many of us would say no.  We don't want to get rid of the thing that plays such a big part in making us who we are.  We just want to get rid of the ableism surrounding us that makes us feel inferior for being who we are.

If you can accept your kids and their disabilities, parents, it's a powerful first step toward your child being able to accept themselves.

When I (Finally) Embraced Disability as a Part of My Identity:

As a teenager, I met a few friends with disabilities, but we only saw each other once, for a week out of the year, for three summers.  Otherwise, I kept with my trend of having exclusively nondisabled friends.  They would say things like, "I thought about calling you and Tara to come over this weekend, but we were all jumping on the trampoline and I didn't want you to feel left out."

(Um...so telling me that you were going to include us, but thought better of it, is supposed to make us not feel left out?)

At 18, I started attending a church, that initially welcomed me with open arms and made me feel accepted.  As soon as the third time I came, though, a well meaning woman told me she had a vision about me and God.  In her vision we were dancing, and she did not hesitate to tell me that I was "standing up."  That was the first time somebody there told me that my disability was not acceptable.  I chased that initial acceptance like a high for eight more years.  My self-worth was nearly destroyed in the process.

Around the time I stopped attending church, Tara and I moved into accessible housing.  A place where all of our neighbors are like us.  And while we were not friends with all of them, we did get close to one, who is now our neighbor across the hall.

It all really changed, though, when I started this.  Blogging.  Writing about CP and how it impacted my life.  Because of this, I got to connect with parents like you (some of whom have kids like I used to be.)  Because of this, I got to connect with other adults like me, who had the same experiences I did.  I got to make friends with people who accept me and truly love me for all of who I am, disability included.  Because they get it.

Because they're like me.

I sincerely hope that your child does not need to wait until their 30s to find this level of acceptance.  I hope this post helps you in your journey to both support and respect your kiddo as a whole, amazing human.

So that they can start loving themselves, ASAP.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Review: The Fosters 5x06 "Welcome to the Jungler"


JESUS, STEF AND LENA - KITCHEN:
Stef: Did you know that dropping out of school is illegal?  
Lena: California is a compulsory education state.  You have to go to school until you’re 18.
Jesus: What?  So you’re gonna arrest me?
Stef: If I have to.
Tonia:  Oh, perfect.  I’m so glad we’re starting off this episode with yet another threat of institutionalization. <– Sarcasm
Tara: Completely jarring.  Completely unrealistic.  Completely unnecessary.
Jesus: [Looking to Lena] Mama.  Seriously?
Lena: The only way you can drop out is if you pass a proficiency test.
Jesus:  Okay, fine.  Then I’ll just do that.  
Lena: Okay.  Then, you can take the test at school tomorrow.
Jesus: Great.  Can I go now? [Jesus leaves at Moms’ nod]
Tonia: This whole conversation is so strained, and Moms have Jesus practically backed up against the kitchen counter.  
Tara: So, we’re going from no school for months to a high-stakes proficiency test?  This is unfair even without factoring in the brain injury.
Lena:  Thank you.
Stef: Yeah.  I will be your bad cop any day, woman.  What if he passes the test?
Lena: He won’t.  He’s having problems with memory and comprehension.  The test is gonna show that and we can use it to make our case in getting him an educational aide.
Tonia:  Wow. Okay.  So according to some old college papers I found from an intro to SPED class where we learned about TBI, to be considered school-ready, Jesus would have to be able to attend to an academic task for 10-15 minutes.  This proficiency test?  3.5 hours long.  (With no accommodations, because Jesus has not even been evaluated yet.)
Basically, Moms are both abusing their power positions (Lena in education, and Stef in law enforcement) to manipulate Jesus into doing what they want him to do.
(Also, for reference?  We have seen Lena alter Jude’s proficiency test to get into Anchor Beach.  Knowing how far she was willing to go for Jude, when she had only just met him, it’s that much more painful knowing that Lena is willing to send Jesus into this test with no accommodations and zero time to study.)
She is trying to sabotage him here, and it sucks. 
Tara: They went right for the sabotage here, instead of having another conversation with Jesus.  They don’t want to deal with his feelings, they simply want him compliant. :( 
Also, just because Dr. Bayfield the orthopedic surgeon has a friend whose son has a 1:1 aide, this does not mean that Jesus definitely needs one.  At this point, he has not even been assessed yet.  Let the professionals decide this.
And it is all kinds of exploitative to use Jesus’s (at this point perceived) deficits against him to get the outcome you desire.  Moms want to intentionally overwhelm, overload and fatigue Jesus’s injured brain to strengthen their case for an aide. 
1) Jesus has not been in school for months.
2) He is given no time to study.
3) According to old-school SPED handout:
Regular classroom placement
- for students whose cognitive, physical and behavioral limitations have resolved, regular classroom placement can be an emotional support and represents a significant level of recovery.
-CAUTION: A return to regular classroom without any level of support should be done with caution and is not recommended as an initial placement.
^Essentially, this is what Moms are doing.
4) The goal of going back to school after a brain injury is initially less about proving knowledge and more about learning strategies and coping skills.  Academic success is not the point - not right away.
 Stef: A few days ago, you didn’t think he was ready to go back to school.
Lena: Well, a couple days ago, I hadn’t threatened to send him away.  I don’t think being trapped in the house is doing him or us any good.  
Stef: He can still refuse to go, you know?
Lena: Well if he DOES, I think you SHOULD arrest him!  I’m serious!  It’s time for a little tough love around here!
Tonia:  I’d settle for regular love around here, Lena.  Because instead of sitting down with Jesus again for another conversation and really hearing him out, you’re jumping to manipulation and threats of arrest???  
Also, this is a moment where having nondisabled writers on the show really comes through.  Why?  Because we know, based on what Lena says here that she is thinking about her previous threat to institutionalize Jesus, but we don’t see Jesus talking about or thinking through how Lena’s threat impacted him.  We get really obvious insight into Lena and her thought process as the parent, but almost none from Jesus, who the threat was directed at.
This is not something someone just gets over in a day.  Jesus will carry this with him for the rest of his life.  And I think it’s irresponsible (especially if you are going to include such egregious ableism as repeated mentions of shock treatment as a legitimate option and threatening your son with institutionalization for having a TBI) to not overtly convey the harm such words inflict on the people they are used against.
Tara: To continue with Tonia’s conversation about how we do not see how Lena’s words impact Jesus… I would argue that we are seeing the impact, to some extent.  What stood out to me in this episode was Jesus Being Good.  We saw no strong emotion from him at all, which is notable on this show.  To me, this could be misinformed writing - but it also could be a tried-and-true coping strategy of a person used to impermanence.  Making a conscious choice to be unaffected.  
Can we also talk about the fact that Lena seems to be ready for Jesus to go back to school because she is fed up with him?  :/
And regarding the whole arrest thing?   Jesus is more vulnerable interacting with law enforcement with intersecting identities as both an ethnic minority and disabled person.  Disabled people make up a third to half of all people killed by police.  The fact that Moms would so cavalierly discuss this seems super out-of-character.
JESUS AND GABE - YARD, WORKING ON THE TREE HOUSE:
Jesus: And now they won’t even let me see Emma!  Which is like, total bull!  Because besides this with you, and her, I have no life!  You know, I think what makes them so mad is that I’m not going back to school.  But I have a plan!  Why don’t we turn this into a business?  You know, making tree houses!
Tonia:  I’m glad Jesus has someone he can talk to about how he’s really feeling. With all the other kids at school and Moms at work, it’s easy to see why Jesus is feeling so isolated.  And with all this time to mull over what Moms said, it’s no wonder he’s coming up with alternate plans.
Also, Moms are so mad that Jesus isn’t going back to school, but, reminder that when Jesus was ready to talk about it, they kept ignoring him and putting it off.  They didn’t even bring it up with his doctor, which was their reason for putting off a discussion in the first place.
Gabe: Uh, I mean, shouldn’t you just finish high school?
Jesus: No, I can get my GED just like you did.
Gabe: Yeah, in prison.  Look, I wouldn’t do anything like I did.  I mean, I made a ton of mistakes when I was your age.  I think your moms are just trying to protect you, you know?
Tonia:  I actually really find myself relating with Gabe here.  I’ve been in that position where you care about a kid but you don’t want to say the wrong thing for fear of not being allowed in the kid’s life anymore.  That being said, Gabe, abuse does not equal protection.
Jesus: Do you think you made a mistake with Ana?  You know, like, not trying to be with her?
Gabe: Yeah.  Yeah, all the time.
Jesus: Do you ever think about about getting back together?
Gabe: [scoffs] She’s with Mike.
Jesus: Yeah, but they’re not, like, married.
Gabe: Here’s the thing.  Choices you make today can stay with you your whole life.  And as far as Ana goes do I wish it had been different?  Yeah, I do.  She was my first love.  Maybe the only one I’ll ever have.  But it’s too late.  And you don’t wanna end up carrying around all that regret.  Trust me.
Tonia:  The first person Jesus talked about in this conversation was Emma.  She is really on his mind here (and why wouldn’t she be, as one of the only consistent people in his life?)  Things undoubtedly feel really shaky with Moms right now and they have felt really shaky with Emma until recently.  Jesus is just trying to figure out what to do to keep the people around him there.  And not to leave, like they all seem to want to.
JESUS AND ANA - KITCHEN:
Jesus:  Ah, hey!
Ana: [covers her engagement ring]  Hi!
Jesus: What’s up?
Ana: Is, um, Mariana here?
Jesus: Oh.  Uh, actually no.  She’s…not home yet.  
Ana: [disappointed] Oh.  Okay.
Tonia:  It always strikes me as strange that Ana shows zero interest in talking to Jesus one-on-one.  (Same goes for Gabe and Mariana.)  It’s like, they will if they have to, but only if they have to.)  I can’t help but feel for Jesus here, especially as Ana doesn’t clarify she wants to talk to them both together, so it just comes off as her not wanting to talk to Jesus.  
It’s also more than a bit irksome that Ana has joined the ranks of people who are clearly uncomortable around Jesus.
Tara: To be fair, Jesus hasn’t been willing or able to build the kind of relationship Ana and Mariana have.  And some relationships are just awkward - not all bio parent/child reunions are perfect.
Jesus: Uh, can I ask you a question…about…Gabe?
Ana: Sure.
Jesus: Do you still, like, have feelings for him?
Ana: What do you mean?
Jesus: Well, I know you’re with Mike.  And he’s a great guy.  But IF you still think about Gabe.  Well, I mean, he…still thinks about you.
Ana: Uh…  How do you know that?
Jesus: He…told me.  He said that you were the only woman that he’s ever loved.
Tonia:  I’d imagine that every adopted kid plays the “what ifs” through in their heads.  And given that Jesus currently has “no life” other than helping Gabe and trying not to step a toe out of line so Moms won’t send him away or arrest him, it makes sense that he would gravitate toward playing matchmaker for Gabe and Ana.  He knows what it’s like not to be told the whole truth, too, so of course he wants the people around him to have all the information they need on a subject.  And I’d hazard to guess that, for Jesus, love is the most important subject there is.
[Mariana walks in from school, sees Ana]
Mariana: Oh!  What are you doing here?
Ana: I just was in the neighborhood and I thought I’d come by to say hi.
Mariana: [touched] Oh.  Well, hi.
Ana: Hi.
Tonia: Keep holding onto that engagement ring for all it’s worth, Ana.  A little awkward for the kids to see it now that Jesus has confessed Gabe’s undying love for you, isn’t it?
Also, it still touches Mariana (and Jesus) to have Ana stop by even if it is to just say hi.  Because it means they’re thought of.  And being thought of means they’re valued.  And that’s always going to matter to these two.
JESUS AND MARIANA - HER ROOM:
Jesus:  Hey.  Can I borrow your phone so I can text Emma?
Mariana: No!  I’m already in enough trouble because of you!
Tonia:  The implication here seems to be that Moms are checking Jesus’s phone to be sure he has no contact with Emma.  (As the last we saw him, after Lena yelled at him, he still had his phone.)
Also, Mariana’s “I’m already in enough trouble because of you” sounds a lot like “I’m already in enough trouble because you’re disabled.”  Because if Jesus had found out about the party pre-TBI and invited himself along, they’d both be in trouble, but Mariana wouldn’t be putting the blame back on him for having a seizure.
Tara: So, Mariana still has her phone after their night out?  But Jesus doesn’t have his or is on restriction?  
Mariana: Hey.  What do you think about Scariana Adams Fostgore?
Jesus: For what?
Mariana: My derby name.  
Jesus: Come on. Moms are not gonna let you do roller derby.  Not after what happened to me.  
Tonia:  Jesus speaks the truth.  I mean, we all remember Lena hyperly quizzing Tess and Dean about why they allowed Logan to play football with its high concussion risk.  Chances are very good that they are not going to sign off on Mariana being on the roller derby team.
[Brandon walks in]
Brandon: Hey, uh, so did you guys hear about Ana and my dad getting engaged?
[Jesus and Mariana make eye contact and stand in sync with each other]
Mariana: What?  Seriously? That’s so cool!  I mean…you’re cool with that, right?
Brandon:  Yeah, I-I-I guess.
Jesus: I wonder why Ana didn’t tell us?  She was here earlier. So, are you sure?
Brandon: It’s what AJ told me.  Oh hang on. [Brandon answers his phone, leaves the room.]
Tonia:  Once adopted siblings, soon to be step-siblings too?  Let’s play How Many Ways Can Three Siblings Be Related?
Tara: Yeah, this is odd.
Jesus: I wonder if Ana didn’t tell us because of what I told her?
Mariana: What did you say?
Jesus: That Gabe still loves her.
Mariana: He does?
Jesus: Yeah.  That’s what he said to me.  It’d be kinda cool if they got back together, right? 
Mariana: Not for Mike.
Jesus: Well, yeah, I know.  But I mean, they were each other’s first loves.
Mariana: Okay.  That doesn’t mean that they should be together now.  People rarely ever marry their first loves.
Tonia:  Mariana, your tone is really close to patronizing here.  Please stop.
Tara: It feels weird that Mariana is siding with Mike here.
Jesus: Some do.  As long as they don’t screw it up.
Mariana: Yeah, well, I want to have LOTS of loves before I get married.
Jesus: I don’t.
Tonia:  I kind of love how the traditional way this might play out is flipped.  Mariana wants to have lots of first loves and Jesus only wants one.  I can’t say I’d feel any differently if everything was changed - including me - and I had no control over any of it.  Especially since Jesus’s own relationship with his Moms is shaky enough that even they have threatened to send him away now that he has a TBI…
JESUS AND EMMA - SCHOOL HALLWAY THE NEXT DAY:
Jesus: Hey.
Emma: Hey.
Jesus: Look, I’m really sorry about last night.
Tonia:  So, I’m a bit slow on the pickup, but it took me until now (actually recapping) to connect that Jesus is on this train of thought with Emma and talking about “unless they screw it up” because he was afraid he had screwed it up by telling her he really didn’t want to see her anyway.  
Also, we do get the specific time reference here: Jesus’s fight with Emma happened last night.  That means Lena threatened to institutionalize him last night.  :(
Emma: Me, too.  I really want to be supportive…of everything.
Tonia:  This line had me waiting for “but I can’t.”  The “but I can’t never came and the “everything” seems to refer to Jesus’s TBI which is now, officially too much for everyone :(
Tara: Yes, look at her word choice here.  She wants to be supportive, but she’s not supportive currently.
Jesus [flirting]: You mean that?
Emma [smiling]: Yes.
[They kiss]
Emma [still smiling]: Do your moms know that you’re here? [whispers] Did you sneak out?
Tonia:  A few blessed seconds of cuteness and fun.  I’ll take it wherever it comes at this point.
Tara: I love these moments.
Jesus [laughs] No, I had to take a proficiency test.  So that I can legally drop out.  
Emma [clears her throat and looks away]: How’d…you do?
Jesus: Uh, good, I think.  
Tonia:  And just like that, the support’s gone. Did Emma think Jesus was apologizing because he came around to her way of thinking?  Is that why she said she wanted to be supportive?  Right about now it sounds like the conditional way everyone else is ‘supporting’ Jesus, which is heartbreaking.
Tara: This test is written as no big deal, but it is a huge deal.  182 questions (reading, writing and math) plus a writing task.  In 3.5 hours.  Unless you want to split up the reading and writing sections, and sit for another 3.5 hours.  We don’t know if Jesus chose to do this, but regardless, he seems to have a bounty of extra energy post-test.
Cognition takes work after a brain injury.  Attending to a task takes work.  Filtering can be almost impossible.  
I can tell you that for my first few weeks back at school (almost 2 months post-injury), I took one class.  An elective.  Choir.  Something completely non-academic.  And after that one 80-minute class period, I would be completely spent.  Exhausted.  Taking 4-hour-long naps.  
So, although Jesus looks none the worse for wear, the actual, real-life implications for taking a test like this the way he did are serious.  Asking him to take the test at this point was nothing less than abusive.  And doing so would have almost certainly hindered his recovery.
Jesus:  Um, but anyway.  I have something for you.  [Jesus takes out a small box.  Offers it to Emma.]
Emma: [laughs nervously and opens the box to find a wooden ring inside]
Jesus: I know it’s not fancy.  But I made it with Gabe.  
Emma [forces a smile] It’s beautiful.
Jesus [smiles genuinely]:  I wanted to give it to you as a promise ring.  You know, until I can get you something…nicer.  Emma, I don’t want to have any regrets in my life.  And I know that you…  You’re the one.  I want to spend the rest of my life with you.
Emma [is not smiling.  Keeps looking down and away.]
Tonia:  This is like, so devastating.  Because I’ve so been here.  So desperate to keep friends that I gave them things I put my whole heart into. 
It just sucks in this case even more so because the scene plays that Jesus (previously pretty dialed into people’s cues, even in earlier episodes this season) seems to be missing all of them here.  So the scene plays out and you are automatically led to feel sorry for Jesus.  In that he “just doesn’t get” that Emma isn’t on the same page with him.
When the reality is?  He likely can’t even face that possibility, because he needs this to work.  He just can’t face one more rejection.  So he’s pushing forward, and hoping that if Emma hears all of what he has to say, she’ll come around.
Tara:  He wants the certainty that at least one person loves him unconditionally.  That at least one person won’t leave.
Emma: Jesus, we’re only 16. 
Jesus: Well yeah, I’m not saying that we’ll get, like, married right now.
Emma: I’m gonna go to college.  Maybe far away.
Jesus: That’s fine.  I’ll go wherever you’re going.  I can do construction, literally, anywhere.
Emma: So much can change.
Jesus: Not if we don’t let it.
Emma: I want change.  I wanna grow and learn and–
Jesus: Well, good.  ‘Cause we could do all that together!
Emma [hesitantly]: Not if you drop out of school.  Education is extremely important to me.  And I [sighs] can’t really see myself marrying someone who’s willfully throwing that away. [Puts the ring box back in Jesus’s hand.]
Tonia:  Ugh, this is just painful.  Emma, break up with him already!  Not that I want you to, but it’s obvious you want to break up.  Don’t string him along.  Also what did Jesus say when you gave him the box back?  That’s a convenient place to end the scene, so you have the last word.
Tara: While I respect Emma’s values, I don’t agree with her saying that Jesus passing a proficiency test is the equivalent of throwing away his education.
JESUS AND LENA - KITCHEN:
Jesus:  Hey.  So, I’m not gonna drop out of school.
Lena: Hard test?
Jesus: Nah.  I mean…  Well, kinda, I guess.  But no, I ran into Emma, and she won’t marry me if I don’t finish school.  So, I’ll get assessed.  Get a babysitter.  Whatever it takes.
Tonia:  So, a lot of times, I look at things from a writer’s perspective.  From a storytelling perspective.  First of all, we have the writer’s lack of a disabled presence anywhere in that writer’s room.  Because seriously how many more times are we going to be subjected to Lena thinking that Jesus is just dumb as a box of rocks when really, he hasn’t even been assessed yet and went into that 3.5 hour test with zero prep and zero accommodations.
And secondly?  This just strikes me as lazy writing.  Not only have they managed to make the conflict between Moms and Jesus (a huge deal) a nonissue, this also, effectively, lets Moms off the hook for any of their gross behavior, (educational neglect, manipulation, and threatening Jesus.)
It has not escaped me either that the writers have skirted immediately addressing how Jesus feels about Lena’s threat of institutionalization from last episode, or the fact that she is still actively pursuing shock therapy for him.  That is just beyond irresponsible.  
Don’t allow yourself to forget that these things are happening.
Tara: The lack of a disabled voice in the writer’s room is glaring when Jesus’s response to a 3.5 hour test is that it was “kinda” hard.
And yes, totally agree with Tonia - so much of this episode is about what was not said, seen or addressed.
MARIANA AND BRANDON - KITCHEN LATE AT NIGHT:
Brandon: Has Ana told you guys about her and my dad yet?
Mariana: No.  I hope Jesus didn’t confuse her.  
Brandon: What do you mean?
Mariana: I guess Gabe told him that he still has feelings for Ana.  And then he told Ana.  I’m sure there’s nothing to worry about.  She loves your dad and she obviously said yes.  You know Jesus.  Ever since his TBI, he’s confused.
Brandon: Yeah.
Tonia:  Seriously, can we stop with the continued implication that Jesus doesn’t know what he’s talking about.  Even if it is to reassure Brandon, there are other ways to do it that are not claiming Jesus misunderstood something he clearly understood perfectly.  And Brandon agreed with her!  Come on, siblings!  Knock it off.
Tara: ^Dismissive ableism.  Presuming incompetence.  These dangerous notions that dehumanize the disabled make abuse, neglect and institutionalization okay.  None of this is okay.  
Do not let the media be your only source of disability education.  Read and watch content made by disabled people.  We exist as more than plot devices or inspiration p*rn.  We are just as human as you are.  See us.