It all started when friend of mine left a comment on a blog post about how she sees different disabilities, uh... differently and cannot lump them all together when thinking about big questions like "Are People With Disabilities Contributing Members of Society?" She referred to herself as a disabilities snob.
Then another friend asked what that was. Then someone else posted the question on their Facebook wall. Then a bunch of people chimed in, and eventually the whole thing left me wondering what it really means to be a disabilities snob.
Ok, so snob connotes superiority and a condescending attitude toward someone believed to be of a lesser position. But I don’t think that is how Kim meant it. I think she was saying it like I might say "Masha is a shoe whore." No need to get all stuck on the word whore, know what I mean?
If I were a disabilities snob, would I think my kids are better than kids with other disabilities... or even better than some other kids with Ds? Would I insist on all inclusion, all the time? Would I cringe when I see my girls dancing in a room full of people just like them... only grown up? Would I do my best to raise them to not want to be part of the "special clubs"? Would I feel insulted if a local church invited my girls to come to a special activity night for people with disabilities?
If yes, then I am definitely not a disabilities snob because none of that is where I am at these days.
I can see how Masha and Autumn could grow up to be super friends to other people with disabilities like their own or even more profound... The two of them go beyond tolerating their sister... they include her. I think M&A can move in both circles... perhaps sometimes learning or playing in a fully inclusive environment and other times doing the same in a group designed just for people with disabilities. I want Masha and Autumn to spend time in both worlds because I believe that is how they will bridge the gap to make it one world.
Right now Masha is in Gen Ed Kindy which is a lot of work and stress for me, and so far I am not sure it is the best way for her to learn but she sure is coming along. I wish though that I could find some extracurricular activities, like a dance class, that was only for children with special needs. Why? Why not fully include her all the time? Because sometimes it would be nice to just have her be exactly who she is without the pressure that comes with standing next to The Ableist.
The same goes for Autumn... she is in a reverse-inclusion preschool, which means there are more typical kids in her class than children with identified special needs. But it would be awesome for her to have someplace to dance, or play, or just be herself with a bunch of other kids who aren’t seen as The Species Typical.
That is why in some ways, our house is the best place of all. We have five young children, boys and girls, typical children and those with differing needs whose levels range from mild to profound depending on the activity. Sometimes they all get on the table and dance together, or they all scream it up tearing apart the living room, other times they break off in natural groups... that change players depending on what is going on... Masha and Autumn sometimes keep up with their brothers playing ball or wrestling, other times they are perfectly happy to chill out with Kimani (ok, so no one ever really chills out with Kimani because chill is just so not her, but you know, they play with her). It is a place where they can all just be themselves, where they get to decide when to be "fully included" and when to be "self-contained".
The bottom line is that I think most adults with Down syndrome are on the cusp... There are times they are interested in and want to be a part of typical age appropriate activities, and there are times when they would be perfectly happy to spend a Friday night at home watching a Disney movie rather than hanging out at the local club drinking Margaritas. To try to push or pull them one way or the other, that to me is what it means to be a disability snob.
There are a lot of people talking about these issues, a lot of talk.... lots and lots of talk. But not so many voices from the ones who are walking the crawl. I want to hear from those parents. What do they think it means for their child to contribute to society? What do they think it means to be a disability snob? What do they think of ableism?
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