Tonight I went to talk to a class of graduate counseling students on living with invisible disabilities. My disabilities are invisible as are M1’s but our struggle to overcome our disabilities is similar and at times I feel bonds us.
I speak openly to the students about first what it was like to be a child in the age before the Americans with Disabilities Act. A child in a time where things like accommodations were not open or easily accessible and compare it to what my children have to help them on their journey today. I talk about being a parent of a child with a disabilities and how sometimes we actually need more help then the child because we are so lost, dazed, confused and TIRED!!!!! I explain the “death of a dream” when you find out your child will never do this or accomplish that. I talk about lack of resources and how every day frustrations can slowly ebb away at even the “best” of parents.
Most of the students stare captivated during the presentation and many ask “polite questions” “Did you know your child’s disabilities before you adopted?” “What resources are available to children with disabilities?” “Are you ever angry that you have a disability?” I take those questions with ease they seem superficial but I know they are tentative too but then the better questions come out. They ask about the anger and depression and since I tell them both my kids are adopted, do I have anger at the birth parents. Over the course of the two and a half hours so many questions pour out that it can be amazing. We talk stereotypes, counseling and about how important it is to ASK a person with a disability how you can help and NEVER assume what should be done. We also talk advocacy and building self confidence and how challenging that can be when normal identity development is compounded by a disability.
I always leave there so tired but at the same time hopeful. I hope that the talk opens their minds and make them think differently of individuals with disabilities and parents of children with disabilities. I hope that some part of them realizes that stereotypes and misconceptions about diagnosis need to be acknowledged in order to be successful as a professional. I hope but I never know for sure until maybe one day in the future I will meet them again in the professional world.