This quote recently popped up in the little quote of the day gadget on my desktop and stuck in my head:
“Acceptance is not submission; it is acknowledgment of the facts of a situation. Then deciding what you’re going to do about it.” Kathleen Casey Theisen
Not too long after entering the world of special needs, I was amazed to see the level of animosity between various groups within the community. Although for the most part other parents were supportive of each other and willing to help in any way they could, there were definitely those who seemed to be pushing their own agenda.
The first issue that came up for us was whether or not to pursue dietary and biomedical interventions. From one side, I was being told that following this path was the only way to give my son the chance to recover fully from autism. Other people told me that I had to let go of my prior expectations for my son and embrace the reality of his disability.
My response was (and still is), “Why can’t I do both?” Why can’t I learn as much as possible about how to love and support my son where he is while also trying to help him overcome the challenges that he was facing? Why can’t I look into all the different methods and theories out there and see which ones seem to work for my son and our family? Isn’t that what all parents do, after all—care for their children as they are while still trying to help them be the best that they can be?
The next argument that I became aware of was on the topic of inclusion. There is a group in our area that is strongly against anything less than full mainstreaming in regular education classes for all students with disabilities, while there are also many parents who have fought their school districts to have their children placed in one of the several schools for autism that exist here.
My question for the first group is why it has to be all or nothing. Can’t we just support each other as we try to find the best situation for each child? For my son right now, that means a regular education kindergarten class with special education services and supports, as well as a social skills after-school program in a small, restricted setting. (On a side note, Michael actually feels more freedom to be himself in the “restricted” environment.)
For another child, the answer may be different. But isn’t the answer also different for typically-developing children?
Maybe this issue doesn’t really affect you; perhaps it’s just that I need to develop a thicker skin and ignore all the controversies. I know I have learned more about making my own decisions and following my chosen path without worrying about what other people think in the last four years. Here too, I am working towards a balance—being comfortable with the decisions I have made for my son while also continuing to engage in the bigger conversations on these topics.