Well, I certainly got a big, fat reality check with that last post about Finn’s IEP meeting. Prejudice against kids with developmental disabilities is alive and well! Only, it’s not just the blatant kind, where people make “retard” comments or express their gratitude that they don’t have a kid like mine. No, this is a more stealthy – and also more insidious – kind of prejudice: the kind that’s cloaked in good intentions, in well-meaningness, in gently trying to get me to see reality as they see it – that Finn is less than, and that he always will be, and that he should be treated accordingly.
It’s not that I want anyone to blow sunshine up my ass – if you’ve spent any time here on this blog at all, you know that I’m not a blow-sunshine-up-my-or-anyone-else’s-ass kind of girl. And it’s not that I expect or even want everyone to agree with me on all issues (okay, well, maybe that would be helpful in my plan to take over the world . . .) I genuinely appreciate engaging in discussion, in constructive debate, in sharing ideas that maybe hadn’t occurred to me. What I don’t appreciate is anyone trying to shove their version of reality down my throat.
Here’s the thing: just because something doesn’t make sense to you, just because you can’t figure out how something can possibly work, just because your sense of logic doesn’t explain certain ideas and mechanisms to you – that doesn’t mean that what you have settled on as “reality” is actually reality. Look – I have no fucking idea how the doctors came up with certain concoctions of chemicals and a regimen of how to administer them, along with their plan and actual implementation of that plan of how to slice my husband’s body open and remove certain problematic tissue – to cure him of cancer (or at least put him into remission for this past four years) – but just because I don’t understand it and can’t explain it doesn’t mean that it’s not possible, that it didn’t actually happen. Just because I don’t understand the mechanisms of aerodynamics and physics, and my sense of logic tells me that a multi-ton jumbo jet cannot possibly lift off into the air and remain airborne – that doesn’t mean that multi-ton jumbo jets don’t actually lift off into the air and remain airborne, carrying people all over the planet, all the fucking time.
If you’ve decided that my son can’t succeed in a general ed classroom because he is intellectually disabled – based solely on your sense of logic – that’s prejudice. Prejudice means “pre-judging” – and it’s almost always based on erroneous perceptions and ideas. If you can’t back your position up with actual facts and evidence, then it’s merely your opinion – not fact, not reality.
It’s been very disheartening this last day or two to realize that this is what we’re up against – not just a shitty school district that has its own pocketbook at the very top of its list of priorities, above serving the actual students in its charge to the best of its ability (this is the “system” I should just “stop fighting,” apparently) – but my own peers – parents of kids with whom Finn (and all the rest of my kids) will attend school for the next decade and a half. Parents who believe that Finn doesn’t belong in the same classes their kids are in because he’s developmentally disabled. Parents who see a diagnosis, a label, or, yes, even a developmental age that a mother was foolish enough to reveal, and pre-judge based on that. Parents who are close-minded, who see limitations, not possibilities. Parents who think it’s unfair for me to expect teachers to tailor things for Finn so that he can learn. Parents who think it’s unfair that Finn’s presence, with his accommodations, will present distractions to the rest of the class. Parents who will, intentionally or not, pass these same pre-judgments down to their kids – my son’s peers.
And so the cycle of prejudice and discrimination continues to thrive.
Here’s what I would like to ask of you: don’t pre-judge. Don’t decide that this can’t work. Try to have an open mind. Don’t limit a little boy you don’t even know – not the way I know him – based on numbers, or even based on your own perceptions and your own personal observations elsewhere. Root for Finn. Cheer for him. Trust that we, Finn’s parents, are traveling this road with our eyes wide open – that of course we question and doubt and worry, but that ultimately, we’re doing what we’re doing because we’ve done our homework, and continue to do our homework, and we believe it’s what will benefit Finn the most out of all the possibilities open to us.
I’m a wife and the mother of seven kids. I’m a reader, a writer, an advocate, a feminist, a liberal, and an atheist. What you see is what you get: no bullshit.