To the People Who Consider My Child With Special Needs a ‘Burden’


Every so often, something will pop up on the internet about people with disabilities being a burden to society, and it’s a bit like, “Oh, is it that time already?” The usual feelings wash through – anger, showing the internet article one or both of my middle fingers, general annoyance, and that slight tinge of guilt of “Well… my daughter is sort of a burden.”

Except she’s not. No more than anyone else, really.

Yet it happens all the time. Something will come up and I’m reminded how my child is a burden to our family, to the education system, to society. She has been put squarely in the category of “Will not contribute to society.” She won’t find the cure for cancer. We’ll likely be supporting her for the rest of her life. She supposedly has nothing to give back to those around her.

And all that is total bullsh*t.

When I was a child, I got a book that became a favorite – “The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes.” I loved it enough that when I spotted it at the store, I bought it for my children. It’s a tale of a little girl bunny who wanted to grow up to be an Easter Bunny (as there were several of them who made Easter deliveries). She was told she couldn’t possibly ever be an Easter Bunny because she wasn’t the right type of rabbit, and she was a girl who then became a mother of 21 little bunnies. (Spoiler alert – she becomes a great Easter Bunny.)

I was always enchanted by how she found tasks for all 21 of her little fuzzy offspring. She paired them up, two by two, to perform tasks that would help out the entire family. So two cooked, two dusted, two made all the beds. Two painted pictures, two made music, two danced – because the arts are important. And one… one pulled out the mama bunny’s chair every night.

Every bunny had something they could do that contributed to the family’s well-being, even if all they did was pull out a chair for their mother, so she could sit down after a long day. No task was deemed “more important” than another. Everyone contributed their talents, and all contributions were appreciated.

In our household society, we all contribute different things. My daughter, Maura’s, contributions are usually the least helpful in one way, but in other ways, they’re priceless. She brings out the best in her siblings and her parents. She brings out the best in so many people. She brings joy and laughter to our lives, as well as reminders to enjoy the simpler things in life. Most of all, she gives love unconditionally. As I remind her siblings, no one will love you the way Maura loves you.

If you tally up facts and numbers and all sorts of tangible things, no, Maura doesn’t contribute much to society. But if you look at the love she gives, the smiles she causes, the experiences she causes – then her contribution to life is huge.

Let’s not fool ourselves – anyone can have a disability or have a child with a disability. Anyone.  Wouldn’t it be better to treat those with disabilities as worthy humans rather than calling them burdens? Because the next “burden to society” may be you or your loved one.

My child is a worthy human being. You are, too. Let’s just go with that.

A version of this post originally appeared on Herding Cats.

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