Ok – wierd title to a blog about disabilities, but hopefully catchy. Stay with me – it will make sense soon.
Today, I met with a great group of ladies at a nearby elementary school. My daughter, a middle schooler who happens to have Down syndrome, is involved in an after school program there where she is a teacher’s helper. I am a big proponent of – educate, educate, educate, so I like adults and kids who interact with my daughter to be able to ask questions and put a face to her support at home. We had a nice conversation and I am thankful for this wonderful program, that will provide my daughter more opportunities in the future than most of her peers. She is doing well, and the teacher has my cell number and the ok to ask me ANYTHING. We are set.
As I was walking out of the school, I met up with a dear friend of mine who works there. She plays a very important part in my daughter’s story because she was the first person to push for inclusion of my daughter – at my church. Every Sunday, I would sit outside in the gathering space with my little one, too afraid to take her to the nursery. My friend walked up to me one day and asked me if we would be willing to let her group (my friend manned the church nursery) care for my daughter, thereby allowing my husband and me to worship together. No denying we needed it at this time in our journey. Bingo – done! My first glance at inclusion.
She reads my blog and we started to talk about some of the things I had written about, and it occurred to me, how we seem to “lump” people in to groups. And when I say “we”, I mean “me” too. I know I’m guilty. I guess everyone is. We have a bad experience with a school, and then all schools are bad. A parent gets snippy with a teacher, and we are all bad parents. All kids with disabilities have the same issues, problems and solutions so we lump them together as a group. As I walked away from our discussion, I thought to myself, the biggest problem with “lumping” people into groups, is that it begins to formulate a “group think” mentality.
All parents are bad, all schools are bad, all teachers are bad, preschool is bad, public schools are bad – one side against the other. The list can go on and on. So often, when we experience or witness the worst, we often end up assigning a label to this “lump”, and this ultimately becomes part of society’s opinion about the lump. I know in the disability world, we tend to lump all kids with special needs into worse case scenarios. We think up the worst situation, and apply the solution to the whole lump of kids. IEP’s and case conferences simply enforce this thinking. “I’ve got to cover every possibility in case…” – more lumps – more group think.
Good things are going to happen, bad things are going to happen – we know this is true no matter the abilities our child has been given. When we get into sensitive subjects like disabilities, unfortunately, it gets difficult to have those discussions that clear the air, and bring light to the truth. We go into our corners, bruised and hurt, and out comes a lump.
So I put it out there to you…. What are you doing to eliminate the lumps? Who do you need to forgive? A teacher? A parent? A school administrator? Can you give a gift of trust to someone who has let you down once before? Can you break the ice and begin a new conversation, one that doesn’t involve note taking? If we can’t rid ourselves of all the lumps within our own house, how can we ever expect to change the group think mentality that exists about our loved ones in society?…… What are you willing to do to smooth over the lumps?