Monday, August 14, 2017

Parenting Kids with Disabilities: What Ableism Looks Like

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) 

Dear Parents,


It's an -ism lesser known
Less understood
Because it's less discussed.
So let's do it.
Let's talk about it.
This ableism -
What is it -

Ableism is

Your kids
With disabilities
Face it every day.

It looks like
Someone mocking
Your child for how
Their disability
Makes them look
Or move
Or speak.

It looks like
Someone dismissing
Your child's word
Because their disability
Means society
Does not take them seriously.

It looks like a pastor
Taking away your child's mobility aids
And insisting
They walk without them.
It's when that pastor
Prays for healing -
For your child to be delivered
Of something that actually shapes
Your child
Into being who they are.

It looks like
A high school kid taking something
Away from your kid
Without consent
And leaving
Because they know
Your kid can't go after them
To get it back.

It's the aide in middle school who
Makes your child feel alienated.
Who reports back to you if
They do something the aide
Does not approve of.
It's making your kid feel
Like there is a double-standard
In place.
One for the other kids,
And one for them,
Because they're disabled.

It's the teacher in elementary school
Who denies your child ribbons on
Track and Field Day,
Because events need to be
Because your child
Has a disability.
They offer stickers instead.
Your child feels slapped.

It's when a therapist mocks
Your child's walk.

It's when your child's "no"
Is disregarded.

It's when your child is called
Lazy.  Uncaring.  Inattentive.
When the reality is
Their disability is

It's when your child's adaptive equipment is
"Too heavy."

It's when your child's negative
(But completely valid)
Are written off as a symptom
And not treated as legitimate.

It's when your child is regarded
As a list of symptoms.
As broken.  As damaged.
As flawed.
As less valuable.
As less than whole.

It's when your child is blamed
For an inability to control their bodies.
When their actions are viewed as
Misbehavior.  As intentionally
When, in fact, they are trying
So hard, always,
To stay in control.

It's when a stranger asks "What's wrong with him?"
Or, "Did you know before you had him?"
Or says, "She's too pretty to be in a wheelchair,"
Right in front of your child.
Or pushes that wheelchair
(With your child in it.
Without asking.)
Without regard for the fear they are striking
In your child at that moment.

It's when media constantly paints your child
As a burden.
And being disabled
As the worst fate ever.

[Image is: Me, holding a copy of the book Me Before You, not smiling]

It is loud
Like your child being called
The R-word.
Like your child being hurt
For what they can't help.

It's quiet
Like your child being ignored
When they try to engage
Other kids
And even, sometimes,
Grown ups.

It's when your child
Can't prove they know something
So, it's assumed they don't.
It's when this assumption
"They don't understand,"
Is used as permission
To overshare and disrespect.

It's when your child
Is not believed
When they need to be


Celebrate your child
For the way adaptive equipment helps them
For their unique way of moving
For finding a way to communicate that works for them.

Take your child
With a disability

Know that supporting your child
And respecting your child
Are not the same thing.

Make sure your child
Experiences both
From you.

Because your child's words are
They are
They should be protected
And know
That they are enough
And whole.

Believe in them
And believe



    1. It always makes my day to see your comments <3

  2. Hello again :) Great post. However, can I just say this about your "Too heavy." comment, I tried to order some mobility equipment and my family and I both found those models to be too heavy to operate safely so I think that's more of a legit concern that needs to be addressed by the people who make the equipment so be a bit careful with statements like that and how you write them. If you write it like that it sounds a bit like "I have no right to complain when my child's equipment is not the right fit" etc. Right on about the media though and LOVE that picture! Talk to you on tumblr later.

    1. Hi Margot,

      But the point of the "too heavy" comment IS how it makes the child feel. Because it's something they need. And hearing (repeatedly) that something they need is "too heavy" makes them inevitably feel like they should just stay home, so their parents do not have to worry about their adaptive equipment...

    2. Oh! You meant them saying it in front of the kid? That wasn't totally clear. Maybe just edit it and say you mean in front of said kid. :)

    3. To me it IS clear, because a kid is not going to care if it's said where they don't know. It matters if it's said in front of them.