Before my beautiful daughter, McLaine, was born in 2009, I have to admit that disability acceptance was not something I’d really ever thought about. Others have described me as kind, compassionate, and a “champion of the underdog.” My natural tendency was generally to take up for others if I sensed unfairness or unkindness. What I did not understand was that simply being nice and helpful to someone is not the same thing as acceptance. A huge part of the acceptance movement is equality, and viewing someone with a disability only as a person who needs your help is to place yourself above them. There’s actually nothing accepting or equal about that.
And so, my darling daughter unknowingly launched me into the world of advocacy. Through learning about various disabilities, seeking out adults with disabilities to get their valuable perspective, meeting other parents of children with disabilities, and even taking a foray into working in special education, my ideas about disability shifted and changed. Finally, I began to understand what true acceptance was.
When I was in school (like 100 years ago), the special education classes were in a different part of the building, and we never saw “those” kids. Luckily, that is changing every day as more and more schools shift toward inclusive education. The International Day of Acceptance actually couldn’t have fallen on a more appropriate day this year- Inauguration Day. With the complete lack of knowledge about IDEA displayed by nominee for Education Secretary, Betsy DeVos, my prayer is that our new president and his administration will adopt the tenets of the 3e Love movement when it comes to the disabilities community- Embrace, Educate, and Empower! I hope that by the time my little girl enters adulthood, this country will have nailed the whole acceptance thing. Until then, we love life and celebrate this important day/weekend.
In honor of this important day, I asked fellow special needs parents what acceptance and this day mean to them:
Bella is completely dependent on others, needs IV’s & medications, has adaptive equipment, a list of diagnoses with words that are hard to pronounce, and numerous specialists that she sees regularly. Despite all this, at the end of the day, to our family, she’s just Bella. Acceptance begins within each of us, in our homes, and in our communities. It means not laughing or making fun of those that are different, and teaching our children that every life has value, and that we are more alike than we are different. I have no doubt the lessons Bella can teach all of us could change the world.
I am the mom of a 5th grader with cerebral palsy that mostly affects his motor control. However, he is 100% wheelchair bound in a big, 250lb power chair. On its best day, it’s intimidating. But at his elementary school, he has found a group of friends who see past his chair, who see him and want to make sure he’s a part of their day. He’s not excluded simply because he’s different. While I would do anything to give him a “normal” life, I know he’s got friends who see more than “the kid in the chair.” My hope, my prayer, is that we can continue to surround him with people like these who understand, accept and see him for who he is.
For the last 9 1/2 years I have had the special honor of being a father of a special needs child. In that time my family and I have felt much love, support, and acceptance from our friends, community, and countless others nationwide we’ve never met. While each day should be filled with this same love and acceptance of those in the special needs community, it is of paramount importance that this day is recognized as a time for us all to ensure we love and honor those members of society whose voices are not always easily heard.
Acceptance is key-not just today but everyday. God made us all “different.” My special needs daughter Ellie doesn’t see herself as different in a negative way so why should anyone else? Ellie’s influence every day whether she realizes it or not, is bringing instant joy, smiles and love to all she comes in contact with. She embraces herself and her differences just as she is and by doing this she inspires so many others to love one another in spite of our “differences.”
Most parents try to raise their child to adapt to the world around them. But when you have a child with a disability, you also have to work to make the world adapt to people who are different. Having an international day of acceptance means taking a moment to show the world what our kids are capable of, and what obstacles they face.
The bad news is there are many obstacles. But they are usually caused by a lack of empathy and awareness — not by the diagnosis itself. So the good news is that they could be very easy to solve, if we open minds and work together.
The International Day of Acceptance means so much to me. It is a day that acknowledges how we must seek to embrace and love all people from all backgrounds.My daughter Maggie is 19-months-old, and, next Tuesday, will be tested for Asperger Syndrome. We are looking forward to having answers and gaining acceptance for her diagnosis. Yes, my child is different. She isn’t up to date with the current milestone standards, but she is perfect as is. Today, I celebrate Maggie and her differences! I praise God for those around us who make life more interesting and fun with their personalities. I choose acceptance!
How will you celebrate the International Day of Acceptance?