How do you identify?
I identify as a woman, a mom, a partner, a daughter, a sister, as someone with a lot of energy, someone who loves to read, play sports, and laugh. I identify as someone who has never dyed my hair, who struggles with relaxing when there is a to-do list, can get easily distracted, and sarcastic.
Some of these ways I identify are recent and some I have felt forever. Some I don't even feel comfortable sharing to strangers. What I do love about my identity is that I choose to identify this way. I love even the parts about myself that frustrate me sometimes. But each piece of myself is something that creates a whole me.
I am not ashamed of who I am. I learned this from my parents and teachers while growing up and now I continue to be my own hype-woman (ok, my partner helps me here too). Having your identity can feel empowering and gives you answers to why you do things the way you do.
Having a disability can be a huge way to identify for someone. When parents receive diagnoses, they don't always want to communicate to their children about their differences. It's hard to remember we are all different when we try to hard to constantly fit in. Parents have these dreams for their children and when you get a disability diagnosis, it can feel very intimidating and scary and you are traveling into the unknown.
Good news, you are not alone.
There are so many parents strongly advocating for their children to be included and how to best accommodate to them so they can access their community! As a former teacher and education specialist, I have worked with many families on educating their child about their disability and how to start advocating for themselves. And this is what I learned:
Read books or find Facebook groups of people who have also received this diagnosis for their child. There are a lot of people out there looking for someone to connect with. Reach out to them or search for books to learn more about the disability. Learn that people are capable and your child needs to learn that from you. Prepare for questions they might have or different ways the conversation may go.
Prepare for your child to not understand or not want to communicate about it. This also might look very different for different people. Maybe you are trying to describe the disability as simple as you can. Maybe you need to inform them by providing them with the tools to be independent. Another way to prepare is to...
Figure out the language
How do you want to explain a diagnosis to your child? Some of those words will need to be defined, such as "diagnosis" or "disability" or "capable." Children are very aware when they are different than their peers, giving them the language to explain why they have certain accommodations can be beneficial for their self-determination and independence. This can also be the time to discuss person first or identity first language.
Have representation in your house-books, movies, tv shows, toys, etc.
This is a great way to bring awareness into your household. Read books, watch shows, and play with toys that can educate your children with and without a disability about people's differences. Check out my Top 10 inclusive book post for some of my fave. (or just click the image to you left for my personal fave)
When people have representation of themselves in their household, it normalizes their disability, no matter how uncommon it may be. Finding characters that use wheelchairs, a white cane, a service dog, and so on, can not only be a great way to communicate about differences but also a great way to give motivation to your child that people with disabilities can live very normal or successful lives!
Depending on your child's ability and where they are communicatively, create a safe space for questions and discussion. But even with this tip, don't force a child to come up with questions. Not all children will be as sad as their parents about a diagnosis.
People who are born with a disability only know that way of living. Even people who get a disability later in life. People with disabilities don't want pity, they want acceptance.
People also need time to reflect. You can ask what support they need, sometimes this will be communicated through facial expressions and body movements and behaviors. Find the other ways your child is communicating frustrations and celebrations.
What is most important for you to remember, is that you are their parent. You will always be their parent and your unconditional love is forever important. You caring and reading a blog post like this, already means you are a phenomenal parent.
Inclusion starts with you and I just want to help.
Happy Reading Friends