- Tell the parents of a child with special needs their child has no quality of life
- Tell the parents of a child with special needs that their child is not worthy of the same treatment others might receive
- When the parents advocate for the child, say "I have been warned about you," and suggest that fighting for this particular child is an offense to the system
And they will, because you know what? Those three comments up there are like red capes to a bull. Every parent of a child with disabilities has heard those comments -- from a doctor, from a social worker, from an insurance drone, from a teacher, from a special-education administrator, from a stranger at the supermarket, from a close family member. We do not have to personally witness a particular incident to believe it is true -- we have a slideshow of that exact experience running in our brains, and we will bring all that emotion, all that righteous indignation, all that scathing anger down on your head. Maybe we weren't able to express it when it happened to us, but it will flow over you like lava.
For me, the slideshow starts with my daughter's birthparents who left her in a hospital in Russia and walked away. I've never understood how they could do that, but the information we received suggested heavily that they were persuaded she would have no "quality of life."
The slideshow clicks, and we're at my daughter's first neurology appointment in the US. The doctor looks at her orphanage records, listens to my answers to his questions, and then says, with contempt, "This child has cerebral palsy. Why did you adopt her?" Clearly, he didn't think much of her quality of life, nor of ours now that she was a part of it.
Click again, and we're at an IEP meeting in which I am struggling to get my daughter switched from self-contained to inclusion. Her speech therapist looks me in the eye and tells me I have to understand that this child will never have an independent life; if I want to be optimistic, I can dream of her one day sweeping the floor at McDonald's, but a sheltered workshop is a more likely reality. Hoping for more would only hurt her. (She's in college now, by the way, so you can see how well I listened.)
Click, click, click. Insult, rejection, slam. Cluelessness, callousness, cruelty. Any parent of a child with special needs has a lifetime of those moments branded onto their brain. We do not forget. And so, when a cause arises that we can add our voices to, oh my goodness will we do so. And you will say that it wasn't like that, and the parent isn't telling the whole story, and there were other reasons, and we weren't there. We will not care. We will remember all the times that we were there. And we will remember exactly what it was like.
And we will make sure that your quality of life takes a quick and precipitous drop.
For more on this story, see my About.com blog post and the running list of posts on the topic I'm collecting there.