Dear parents of typically developing kids,
It’s been a busy summer! I see your Facebook posts about dance recitals and costumes, Little League championships and trophies and graduation parties with swimming pools. I see smiles covered with ice cream and big duffel bags packed and ready to go for overnight camp.
I want to live vicariously through your fun experiences, but sometimes it’s just too hard. Families with children with special needs like mine don’t always get to enjoy the same luxuries. “Luxury?” I hear you say. “That duffel bag will be coming home with 10 days of stinky, sweaty and dirty clothes for me to wash!” or “I had to sit through 12 dance numbers just to get to my kid’s two-minute performance!” My response? Yes, dirty clothes would be a luxury for me.
This isn’t a sob story or pity party post. Rather, I’m asking you to consider ways you might be able to include us in some of these activities. Please know I’m not blaming you for not having a child with a disability and maybe not noticing kids who are a little different weren’t always included in these events.
The next time you’re at a recital, Little League game or camp orientation, please look around to see if any children with special needs and disabilities are being included. Ask your camp counselors if there are campers with special needs involved in activities or are even allowed admission to the camp at all.
They’re all so used to hearing from special needs parents like me who want our kids to have the opportunity to be included. But maybe it would make an even bigger impact if you brought it up, too. Sometimes, just raising awareness will help bring about change for programming policies that could open the door for so many families like mine. Plus, there’s no denying that inclusion benefits all people, not just those with disabilities.
And that graduation party? Please look around to see if any students with disabilities were invited and included. I’m not bringing this up to make you feel bad. I just want to let you know what may seem like a small gesture of inclusion to you, means the world to a family like mine. Raising a kiddo with any special need can be very isolating. If we’re included, we feel accepted, appreciated and even hopeful for our child’s future. Yes, you can do all of that for us by extending an invitation or speaking to the dance instructor, coach or camp director about including all participants.
Dani, a mama bird to a sweet little bird who happens to have autism.
A version of this post originally appeared on Birdhouse for Autism.
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