Today is Election Day for primaries in my state, and although we don’t consider ourselves actively political, having a child with special needs alters your perspective on politics, public policies, education, well pretty much everything. And given that our son is only 2, then the people who run our governments have a lot of say when it comes to his therapies (through early intervention and the school system), his education, and his future. And like any parent out there, we love our children more than life itself, and so we want the very best for them: the best access to services, fair and equal treatment, the best education, supports toward independence (and the programs that support it), and acceptance in society as the cherry on top. But the waters get muddy if you add in party allegiances influenced by loved ones and core beliefs, perspectives on who is best for job creation and the economy, the environment, foreign policy, etc. So yes, politics is a complicated (and sometimes ugly and messy) matter.
Now I’ve learned my lesson about discussing politics openly (although we all should feel safe to do so). I once posted an unfavorable article and post about our governor about his lack of support of social services, and one mother who also has a child with Down syndrome commented that I should stay off of Facebook. So not a nice reaction. I did try to preface the post by saying I wasn’t trying to be political and was mainly upset about how they were trying to modify early intervention (which is near and dear to our hearts), but given how sensitive the topic tends to be, it quickly got heated.
So I am going to TRY and NOT make this post about politics itself, but more about trying to make the best decisions that represent the best interests of you and your family, as well as treating others how you would want yourself and your child with special needs (or friend’s child, grandchild, or anyone really) to be treated. Because that is where I find the issues difficult. I want to be consistent with my attitudes, whether philosophical, political or otherwise. So I try and ask myself, how would I want others to treat my son with special needs? With acceptance, of course, and I want him to be included so it doesn’t have to be an active thought or action, with no need even for acknowledgement at all.
Which is what I see when Luke is in his preschool class with other 1-2 year olds, I just see kids playing and learning. I am so very glad that we signed him up for this class. The teacher is wonderful, the kids are great, and the parents/caregivers are so supportive and caring by just treating Luke and myself as part of the class with no distinction. I just hope all our experiences will be this great and inclusive, because that will make me so happy! Because besides the initial explanation of Luke having Down Syndrome, he is just generally accepted as a child in the class. We’ve also had them over to our home a number of times for play dates and for his second birthday, and Luke loves every moment!
So as I reflect on what I idealize our world to look like, I think of his preschool class and hope for something like that. Oversimplified I know, but wouldn’t it be nice to live in a world where you don’t harp on differences and just happily play along with everyone else with little worry about the economy, public safety and the environment. But the reality is so far different than idealism.
Even then though, I try to think about my views as shaping a culture of inclusion, even though I also want my family to grow up in a place that is safe and secure. So I keep hoping and praying that those desires don’t have to be mutually exclusive. Because I worry if the world becomes more cynical and suspicious, what kind of lessons will that teach our children? That a person who dresses differently or talks differently is meant to be excluded and shunned, yet a child with Down syndrome should be accepted and included? See where the moral dilemma comes in? When we try and teach our children that we should include others regardless of ability (or disability), doesn’t it mean the same for difference in religion or race? But I know it’s hard to practice what you preach consistently across all aspects, especially if those ideals conflict with fears of uncertainty and risk or are muddied up by other issues. It may sound too idealistic but one can still dream, can’t they? So whoever ends up in the White House, I just hope and pray that you can bring our country together, make it a safe place to raise our kids, and cultivate a society of inclusion, regardless of race, religion or ability. And a healthy economy and environment too. That’s not too much to ask for, is it?