In the past few weeks, I’ve focused on inclusion by sharing Ryan’s success story and the outpouring of community recognition and affection at the passing of Andrew Lawson (local paper).
But each story of inclusion has a beginning. I believe these stories begin in and with the family. Regardless of the initial response, families who are able to accept the disability of their child will have a much easier time of helping the child grow and thrive. According to Ann Turnbull and others, families who positively adapt to the birth are those “who roll up their sleeves and get on with the task of finding the best available services for their children: who both accept the reality of the disability and are able to love the child for who she or he is…”
In fact, elsewhere it’s been said that “the presence of a child with a disability in a family can have many positive effects, and can even help to strengthen families.” We know that all children need “responsive” parenting, which implies acceptance of the child and nurturing his/her growth. Parents’ role modeling and guidance send a message to the child’s siblings. The child may have a disability, but he or she grows up knowing acceptance and developing a healthy sense of who he or she is.
And then there are those special people within the community. The teacher who tells a mom that when the child was old enough, he would be welcome at their nursery school, as happened with Regina and Andrew Lawson. Or perhaps it’s that special education teacher who becomes a great recreational consultant for community families.
The steps on the road to inclusion and achievement begin at home, with a parent. Sometimes the road begins with a surrogate due to difficult circumstances at home. But I’ve seen acceptance be demonstrated regardless of the disability, the medical condition, or the behavior. Parents should be recognized for the valued role they play by being provided the supports they need. It starts with family.
Leo V. Sarkissian