Thursday, September 25, 2014

Seeing past a Disability is a Lesson on Humanity: Third Grade Memories.


Before I had my children, the world of special needs was something of my own childhood. I grew up around those who needed a little extra love and attention. Back in those days, the special needs children were often in separate classrooms. Occasionally we would have children who had Downs or physical handicaps in our classrooms. In my third grade, my best friend was a boy who had Spina Bifida, who had later died due to other things happening inside his small body. It was knowing him, without seeing the very obvious thing that made him different, that allowed me to see a person beyond the stated or pronounced issue they were having in life.

With that sense, it made me realize, when my own children were diagnosed, wouldn't it be wonderful if people could see past that one distinctive factor. Even though, there have been a lot of advancements in medical science, it still seems that the ignorance of long before, still reigns. 

I  have written a lot about the daily struggles both myself and my children have navigating around in this world, that seems to be, some days, a sea of assholes. But every time I encounter someone that can't quite figure my children out, I think back to looking in on those classrooms that were filled with children, who just wanted to play and have friends. And I think, it really hasn't changed all that much. Sure we are starting to see more and more special needs children within the classroom, but its the attitudes that haven't changed. Policies have. But not the way of thinking. We still have teachers that don't respect the uniqueness of their students and the adults out there that still try to take advantage of those who they think are weak.Bullies that are born from the  way of thinking birthed by those who are around them. Its those attitudes that get passed down, that bother me. 

I take the experiences I had growing up as something to teach my own children. I want them to see people with an open mind. I don't want them to think that just because someone is different from them, that they need to excluded from society. I want them to be able to stick up for someone who maybe can't. As they have a sibling that can't verbalize. Just as I was the voice for that friend, I want them to have that. 

After we got the diagnosis of our third child, I remember all those years of looking inside those special classrooms, thinking to myself, why can't they come out and play with us. I see my son, who is very happy where he is, in one of those classrooms. I hope that the day will come that he will be able to be with his peers. I know in my heart that it will come. 

I hang on to those memories of a person that taught me so much. At the time, I didn't think much of it as I was a child. But looking back I just see a person who was willing to be my friend and I his. Looking  at school pictures, he was always at the end, in his wheelchair and megawatt smile. I remember at his funeral, his mother thanked me for being such a good friend. To this day, I was just happy to have had him in my life. To me, there wasn't any labels or diagnosis. If a person was a good person, that was all the mattered, to me.

It is sad to me that even back then, disabilities were what made a person, no one saw past that.The refusal to educate, segregates those who just yearn to be part of this society, which is no better than those attitudes of old of wanting to put these children away or separated.  To this day, as we fight for acceptance and simple compassion, those same attitudes are still there.. Just a different translation of it. 

I hope that one day, everyone will be on the same page, speaking the same language when it comes to accepting our children. Being kind and compassionate. Looking back, me just being a friend to someone that was different, meant more to me than anything else, as he taught me more about being a good human being than I think he realized.And that is the lesson many people still need to learn.  

Billy, I hope that you know just what kind of lesson you taught me way back then about how to be a compassionate person. I hope that my children can teach someone out there the same valuable lesson you taught me many many moons ago. .You are always remembered fondly.