We need to come together and talk about disability. The way we view the term disabled is in dire need of a change. The fact is that there are certain aspects of the word and stigmas attached to it that now need to be eradicated completely. We have to change the way we think about a disability. You need to learn this as a parent. Note, I said parent, not a parent of a disabled child. Any parent should be aware of the stigmas attached to a disability, both mental and physical. There are always stigmas but it is particularly problematic if the disability is hidden, as explained on BenderConsult.com/articles/stigma-hidden-disabilities. Any parent should be actively trying to change the perception society has of disabilities. Even if your child doesn’t have a disability, there’s a good chance that their friend, a child in their class will. As such, parents need to be aware of disability and ensure that they don’t send the wrong message to their kids.
Disabilities Don’t Always Mean A Lower Quality Of Life
It is important for people to realise that growing up with a disability or developing one later in life won’t always mean that the individual has a lower quality of life. Particularly, if we are thinking of a child. Take, for instance, autism. An autism diagnosis can occur early on, often if the child is low functioning. If however, the child is high functioning, then it’s quite possible that they never receive a diagnosis are all. Under the triad of impairments, many kids are simply passed over completely. Why? They can function perfectly well regardless of their disability.
That’s not to say that people with a disability like autism don’t face adversity. They certainly do. Indeed it’s fair to say that people with autism, particularly in school, often have fewer friends and struggle to form social groups. They may also perform less well than expected in school due to an inability to engage in social situations. But, they can still lead a fantastic quality of life, supporting themselves and one day living their life independently for lack of a better word ‘normally.’
As well as this, we have to be aware that a disability may affect happiness levels but it won’t impact it completely. Yes, those who are unable to walk can be more susceptible to mental issues like depression. However, this does not mean that they cannot find enjoyment in life. It does not mean they can’t be happy and this is something that is worth knowing for parents of a disabled child. Particularly, if you feel that your son or daughter is not getting the same enjoyment in life that other kids their age are.
The official definition of disabled is as follows: a person with a mental or physical condition that does limit movement, senses or even activities.
At first glance, this does seem like a fairly good description of someone who has a disability. However, it misses out an important detail. A disability may not always limit any of these things. While you might think that your child is always going to be unable to walk there are medical breakthroughs every day and therefore no reason to give up hope and every reason to believe they will not be limited forever. Tech has been developed that can vastly improve issues with senses. For instance, children who are born deaf may be cured at birth with an implant. You can learn more about deafness in children if you visit EarScience.org.au/Lions-hearing. Though perhaps cure is the incorrect term. Their hearing can be greatly improved to the point where they will not live their life in complete silence. As for activities, those with mental disabilities can adapt, learn coping mechanisms and overcome their issues with certain activities. For instance, someone with a general anxiety disorder can learn through methods how to deal with large crowds of people. Someone with schizophrenia can take both medicine and get psychiatric treatment to help them cope and even thrive in society.
Thus, it seems that there is a serious issue with the word disabled. It suggests that people are limited in their lives, and that’s not always the case. Disabled has always been brought forward as the politically correct alternative to ‘handicapped’ which you hardly ever hear use anymore. One could question whether the word disabled should disappear as well as suggested on QLD.gov.au/disability/. Particularly know that we can see that a disability does not always limit the individual or the child.
The Culture Of The Disabled
If you are not disabled yourself, you may not think as a disability as being something that makes you part of a culture, but it does. There are forums online for mental conditions like Autism, chat rooms and even social groups. For physical disabilities, there are sports teams, events and support groups. Interestingly, there was a documentary not too long ago called ‘wanting a deaf baby.’ Two soon to be parents, both deaf, were shown clearly hoping that their child had the same disability. In Fact, they even decided not to opt for the implant that would have given their baby partial hearing.
Now while this might seem peculiar and to some even ethically wrong, it does highlight something about physical and mental conditions that most people are not aware of. There is the perception of a real thriving culture here with some people who almost feel connected to others with their condition. More so than to people without it. As such living with a disability or even developing one later in life or perhaps getting a diagnosis will always open a brand new world of people and experiences.
We often see a disability as a totally negative and this is somewhat understandable. But what we don’t think about is the fact that despite the adversity there will always be people just like you or your child that they can lean on for support, help and even friendship. Referring back to autism, many people parents struggle at least at first when they discover their child is low functioning. Human interactions, contact and communication can all be limited here. However, for parents in this position, there will always be other parents to talk to and share in the greatest and worst moments.
So, perhaps we do need to start rethinking that word ‘disability’ and trying to see the mental and physical conditions that are all around us in a new light.