I initially wanted to write a blog entry with parents of DD children...and then I thought how my thoughts clearly apply to parents of all children generally, and us DD children specifically. I have been touching the subject in all of my latest posts, but here I'll speak in specifics:
It is my experience that all human beings are possessed of unique capabilities and individual expression. The major problem I see today, is that developmentally disabled individuals are not integrated into the social norm. Rather, we have been set outside the boundaries of "normal" by the average, the "typical" persons in society. But typical is an illusion. Normal is just a setting on the dryer, and that is all. Throughout history, people with developmental disabilities have been viewed as incapable and incompetent in their capacity for decision-making and development. Such thinking is deeply rooted in the Eugenics movement. By the mid 20th century it's perverse ideas being promoted and to a great extent propagandized successfully, as many of its ideas have entered into our cultural zeitgeist. It is also my experience that this is the problem.
Someone with developmental or intellectual disabilities (or for that matter, physical disabilities) is in no way lesser than those without them. This is the reason behind changes in language from dis-abled to other-abled. Your child is possessed of infinite potential, packaged in his or her own uniquely individual self. Nourish that, encourage that, feed that. In yourself, as well as your child(ren.) It is true your child cannot or cannot easily do things other children in their pier group can do, to deny this is ludicrous. That being said, this is not untrue of all children/adults/individuals. Your child did not come into the world an empty slate; but a uniquely empowered individual. It is this uniquely empowered young man or woman that will leave their mark on the world. Your child has the potential to discover purpose in their life. Can a parent ask for anything more for their child?
Bigotry and bias towards intellectually and developmentally different peoples in our country, while not acceptable to all, most will turn a blind eye, shuffle off the individual to a category in their little brains, behind a closed door in the dark. I am now "marked" as that category in their minds, so I don't matter, I'm less, you are superior, I'm inferior and to be tolerated at best.
Enriching your child's sense of belonging, of being a necessary part of a greater world and society, in their own unique expression of that, is in my thinking the single most empowering thing you can do for them. Even if their world is much smaller than someone else's. Even if they aren't average (especially if they aren't.) Teach them that they have the power to make a difference. Because you do, and they do.
My own parents admitted to "do as I say, not as I do." Out of one side of their mouths they said "I can do anything I put my mind to," spewed out of the other side of their mouth was "why can't you just be like everybody else." and "you'll never be responsible for anything." I believe their intent was (originally) good, but their carry through sucks.
Life has taught me that our words must match our actions. This means, even IF our actions are nefarious, we are clear with ourselves and others in such actions. If we say we believe thus and such, and such a way is how we must live our lives, but we don't actually live up to our own words, others learn to not trust what we say and do and far worse, we learn not to trust ourselves. And, as actions teach louder than words, we pass this (potentially) on to our children.
Teach your child to stand up for themselves and be strong, by standing up for them and remaining steadfast. In today's world DD children are at a much higher risk of passive neglect, physical abuse, neglect, sexual abuse, psychological and emotional abuse. We are more likely to be constrained and restricted from normal activity. We are far more likely to be victims of financial abuses, legal and civil abuses and systemic abuses.
Especially, create an environment for your child where they would feel safe relating any of these abuses to you. And those of your who aren't parents and who know DD adults, please do the same for us.
It brings me immense joy to speak with parents of ACC children like myself and see them championing for their child(ren.) I almost feel like the little lady in Poltergeist (I think she was also one of the original Oz munchkins) "This house is clean! " LOL