“Part of the problem with the word ‘disabilities’ is that it immediately suggests an inability to see or hear or walk or do other things that many of us take for granted. But what of people who can’t feel? Or talk about their feelings? Or manage their feelings in constructive ways? What of people who aren’t able to form close and strong relationships? And people who cannot find fulfilment in their lives, or those who have lost hope, who live in disappointment and bitterness and find in life no joy, no love? These, it seems to me, are the real disabilities.”
― Fred Rogers, The World According to Mister Rogers: Important Things to Remember
I have spent the last few years as a part of a team that works with kids facing academic failure. Our work involves diagnosing neurological, visual, hearing, intellectual and learning disabilities, certifying them and writing to the children’s schools about the provisions and concessions that they are eligible for. We also counsel parents at the time of certification.
As a mother I know that we all want our children to be a better version of ourselves (and I don’t think it is wrong, what is evolution all about after all?). But realising that our child has to take the road less travelled can be unnerving. The struggle exists for any parent. Those who are resourceful explore a variety of interventions and are in a sort of urgency to get the child to “improve” at the earliest. Paradoxically some spend a long time in denial, especially if it is a less obvious disability like dyslexia. Many are unmindful of the impact of the disability on the child’s life and personality as they focus on the difficulties that they have to face as parents. Some let their worry about the future sap their strength considerably. I want to use this space to share some insights we have gained as professionals interacting with these children and things we like to repeat to parents often.
What makes you different makes you beautiful
I got a sound piece of advice the day I discovered that developmental paediatrics was my calling in life. My mentor said, “I know you are taking this up because it strikes a deep chord within you and this work makes you happy. But there is something you must know before you begin your journey. You are not here to help every child come as “close to normal” as possible. You are here to help every child “actualize” himself and reach his potential. You have to make a different plan for each one and every intervention should consider the child’s happiness and dignity.”