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Just The Way You Are - What We Owe Our Children

              Would you ever dream of allowing your son or daughter to receive an education that is less adequate then his or her peers? Would you deny your child something that would allow them to be successful now or as adults? The answers to these questions are obvious to anyone, but all too often it happens to children who have a disability without their parents ever having any intentions of letting it take place.
                Often times when parents learn of a child’s disability, especially in the case of mental impairments that don’t present themselves until later into adolescence, they are warned to “be realistic” when it comes to the child’s abilities and future potential. This precept is, however, very flawed. If you as a parent don’t have big dreams for your child, who will? Children thrive on the encouragement and support of their parents, so you are in a prime position to influence your child to be the very best and to succeed. If you have low expectations for your child, that is probably the level of success that they will reach.

                If we as parents of children with disabilities truly want our kids to succeed, we must not only dream bigger, we must also fight harder. If we are told to “be realistic” then let’s do just that. The world of jobs and employment is a competitive one. A person with a disability faces an extra challenge of beating out the competition despite a disability. They must prove that they are better, smarter, more qualified, than all the other applicants. If we want our kids to grow up and be successful in the job market, we must not only make them aware of this fact, but prepare them for it. We must provide them every opportunity to succeed and push them to do their best even if they have an impairment. We owe no less to any of our children, disability or not.

                The article that I drew my inspiration from, written by Kathie Snow and also entitled “What We Owe Our Children” has some great advice on creating high expectations for our children so that they will one day have high expectations of themselves.

She says, “. . .let’s be really realistic about what we, as responsible adults—parents, teachers, therapists, and others—owe children with disabilities:

·         We owe them an unwavering commitment to have high expectations for them and to support their dreams, so they can dream big dreams for themselves.

·         We owe them more than an “appropriate” education that’s as good as, or better than, the education of students without disabilities, because they have a harder row to hoe, now and in the future.

·         We owe them an age-appropriate, inclusive education, as well as participation in inclusive community activities, so that they can benefit from the ordinary and precious childhood opportunities to learn reading, writing, and arithmetic; to know how to get along in the real world; to make friends; and to acquire many other skills that can only be learning in real world, inclusive environments . If the current public school can’t full this requirement, parents should explore other public schools , private schools, or homeschooling.

·         We owe them whatever assistive technology devices, supports, and modifications they need to enable them to be successful now, and in the future, at home, school, and other inclusive environments.

·         We owe them every opportunity to experience all the ups and downs and privileges and responsibilities of a “normal” life: to try and fail and learn from mistakes, to experience the dignity of risk, to receive an allowance and blow it on junk, to do chores at home, or other ordinary childhood experiences.

·         Finally, we owe them our solemn promise that we will protect them from those who would cause harm through low expectations, sub-standard education, segregated environments, and/or other malignant influences.”

This article provides some insight into raising a child with a disability, and has helped me to better understand the importance of not letting my son’s disability be a “crutch” or excuse for him to get by in life, but instead to encourage him to be great. I hope you enjoyed it and that it has helped you as well. This article and many more pertaining to the topic of disability can be found at www.disabilityisnatural.com.

Comments

  1. Hello Ms. Buchanan. I just saw your video of your sweet son today while looking over yahoo news. You are a brave young woman and your son is a great treasure. I even played it again to have my 6 year old son watch with me to help him understand that we are so much more than what we look like. My own daughter has cerebral palsy and is now 11 years old. I'm sure Christian will grow in acceptance as my Buggy has with her "palsy problems" as she calls them. You've made a great impression on the world. And hearts and prayers now join you in loving that sweet little boy. Blessings and love. Eurydice

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