Dear parents of the typically developing kids,
It’s been a busy month! I see your posts of the dance recitals and the costumes, little league championships and the trophies, the graduation parties with swimming pools and ice cream covered smiles, and the big duffel bags packed and ready to go for overnight camp! I want to smile and live vicariously through your fun experiences, but sometimes it’s just too hard. Too often families like mine aren’t enjoying the same luxuries. Ha! I can hear you now, “luxury? that duffel bag will be coming home with 10 days of stinky, sweaty, dirty clothes for me to wash!” or “I had to sit through 12 dance numbers just to get to my kid’s 2 minute performance!” And to that, I’d say, “yes, it’s a luxury.”
This isn’t a sob story, pity party post. Rather, I am asking you to consider some of the ways that you might be able to help us be included in some of these things. Now, please know that I am not blaming you for not having a child with a disability and maybe not even noticing that the kids who are a little different might not be included in these events.
Next time you’re there at that recital/game/camp orientation, etc. look around and see if there are children with special needs and disabilities being included. Ask your camp counselors if there are campers with special needs included in activities with your child’s bunk- or even allowed admission to the camp at all! They’re all so used to hearing from parents like me that we want our kids to have these opportunities to be included, but maybe it’d make an impact if you brought it up, too. Sometimes, just raising the awareness that there may be a need for a change (an upgrade, if you will!), to their programming policies could open the door for so many families like mine to get to experience some of these fun yet seemingly mundane things. Plus, there’s no denying that inclusion benefits ALL people, not just those with disabilities.
And, at that graduation party? Peek around and see if any of the school’s students with disabilities were invited and included. I’m not bringing this up to make you feel bad. Only to let you know that what may seem like a small gesture of inclusion to you, would mean the world to a family like mine. Raising a kiddo with any special need can be very isolating. If we are included, we feel accepted, appreciated, and even hopeful for our child’s future. Yes, you can do all that for us just by extending an invitation or speaking to the dance instructor, coach, or camp director about including all participants.
Love, Dani (mama bird to a sweet little bird who happens to have Autism)