Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Blogging Against Disablism 1 May 2008

You broke my heart – Blogging Against Disablism

DisAbility, difference – they aren’t particularly new concepts to me. I grew up with a sister who is profoundly deaf. She is also vision impaired although we never really viewed her that way – so she is blind in one eye and has sight loss in the other – it isn’t a disability – not like being unable to hear in a family that loves music! I should have known better.

I am also a teacher. I mainly teach high school students. I love it. I don’t fight for the ‘top kids’ like some do – I enjoy all sorts – or so I thought – until the radical day (yes in the 1990s!) when a young woman with Down Syndrome came to our school. She wasn’t even in my classes – she did a ‘special program’. But oh – how much I learned about her – after I left that school. While I was there I mostly agreed with the teachers who loudly claimed she would be better of at a school with a specialist unit – who could cater for her needs – I nodded agreement unthinkingly because these statements were being said by women I admired – with greater knowledge (or so I thought) of the educational system than I had. The special ed teacher warned us that this student could be lazy – and manipulative to escape work. We were to treat her like all the others and yet she was spoken about as a devious young child (she was 18). This student was in my roll call – she followed routine, grimaced when I passed on messages sending her to the special ed teacher, and came from a very loving, supportive and protective family.

In 2004 my heart was shattered – in my ignorant bliss it never occurred to me that this could happen but Hannah found the fault line – CRACK! My own daughter was born with Down Syndrome and she needed major heart surgery to boot! I learned so much about that young woman who had been at my old school then. I learned how amazing she was. How strong, brave and determined. I also realized the extent of my prejudice – and it scares me to this day – because this is what Hannah will have to face.

My heart isn’t broken at all anymore. In fact – she forged it together as if of steel. I cry at anything, I try and listen with an open heart, I feel vulnerable most of the time yet I know my heart is strong – Hannah has shown me what I can do. In watching her remarkable spirit I strive to deserve her in my life, to always do the best I can for her and to demand it of others. My past experience taught me not to judge too harshly but to advocate strongly. It is in opening to others as Hannah does that we can overcome the ignorance of ‘disablism’. That is why I wholeheartedly support the wonderful notion of Blogging Against Disablism – I hope you do too.


Tommy's mommy said...

Great post Shelly! It is incredible how we as moms are so changed by our children.

My heart is often heavy for what is lying ahead for our kids. Employment, education... systems that already have labels for them. Heavy sigh.

Katie said...

Shelly, what a wonderful post!!
What it boils down to is ignorence - We fear what we dont understand so we dont TRY to understand it until it gets thrown right in our faces, then we realise that really there was nothing to fear in the first place except that is, for the ignorence of others.