Rose Colored Glasses
By Pat Linkhorn
Parents of children with special needs
don't look through rose colored glasses, but it must seem like we do.
I spent some time with a school official the other day. We carpooled
on a trip to Columbus. This person is a principal at the MR/DD school
both my children attended and I have a tremendous amount of respect for
her. She has been there for me as I've advocated for my children to be
in the public school system and her understanding of laws has been invaluable.
But as we rode to Columbus, she made an interesting comment, which caused
me to really sit back and analyze both our reactions to the meeting we
attended on the rules revision.
She said, "The longer I'm in this field, the more I realize that
these kids are more like typical kids."
"Big deal, " I thought, "I've known that for a long time."
The comment stayed there at the back of my mind though, like many things
I hear. I felt there was some big insight here that I should understand
and I think I have begun to understand, to a degree.
Most parents see our children as children first, instinctively. It's a
basic fact for us. They have personalities, likes and dislikes, fears
and loves, as do all children. Their disabilities become secondary, once
we accept and go on with our lives and begin to build new dreams. When
we advocate for them, we expect the professionals to feel as we do about
what is possible for them to accomplish. It may seem to them as if we're
looking through rose colored glasses because most of them, even the ones
who are so helpful, see them through other eyes.
First of all, they see numbers and labels. The system forces them too.
Unit funding, minimum and maximum class size, teacher qualification and
aides are just a few of the things they have to consider. Unless a professional
has a child of their own who has a disability, they can never really relate
to what we see. They haven't invested the time, nor the energy that we
have. Their futures aren't intertwined in the lives of these children.
They cannot afford to be as emotionally involved as we are. They are not
able to live the drama that we have.
Parents don't look through rose colored glasses, but it must seem like
we do. All professionals aren't against us, but neither are they completely
with us. Is there any way we can even out the picture? It might help if
we told a few stories and asked some open ended questions when we're dealing
with professionals. Ask what they see for our children and remember that
they have been taught to think as they do. Don't be upset when their views
are different. Work on trying to make them see the same picture we see
and don't expect them to understand instantly. Attitudes are difficult,
and sometimes impossible to change, but good results speak for themselves.
Copyright 2001 Pat Linkhorn
Pat Linkhorn is the Editor of Special
Education at About.com and a professional advocate for families with children
who have special needs. She is also an experienced parent and has two girls
with special needs - autism and blindness due to prematurity. http://thelinkto.com/linkhome