Friday, 03 June 2011
I don’t have a lot of time to read, but I do spend a lot of time in waiting rooms. Too much time in waiting rooms, actually. I see all kinds of parents like me in there. Stay-at-home mothers and fathers, ones who go out to work, ones who work at home, parents of multiples, parents of adopted children, parents of only children, parents of lots of children, expat parents, gay parents, ones who married their childhood sweetheart, single parents, divorced and remarried parents, mixed culture and multiracial parents. I’m a special needs mother, you see. We’re all different.
We think differently too. We can be a contentious group. Sometimes we feel so passionately about something that we drown each other out. The powerful voices which get heard are not necessarily the most accurate. Day in, day out, we witness our children struggling, and we forget that there are other kids struggling in different ways. We scour books, magazines, and the internet for the information we are looking for, but forget to take in another account.
So I understand, I do, that it is hard to speak to us. I get that when you try to print information, it becomes a debate. If you focus on one disability, it excludes others. You choose a celebrity spokesperson for the cause, and ordinary special needs parents can’t relate, or disagree with their stance. You find medical experts to write on the subject, and still we complain. What does a doctor know about our lives? The clinical analysis of the doctor and the parent’s loving description of their child are completely at odds. And parents change too. Perhaps what seemed to be insurmountable barriers at first later become hurdles to be leaped.
You’ll never get us to all agree about what you should be publishing, so save yourself the hassle. Continue to ignore the issues, and save yourself the backlash.
But there is something I think we all manage to agree on: we’re invisible. We can’t see ourselves, or our kids in the media. It isn’t just our children who feel marginalized and excluded. When you don’t cover special needs issues in your magazine, you send the message that we don’t matter. It creates a barrier between parents of typically developing children and those whose children are developing differently. If you’re the parent of a special needs child, you want other children to understand and respect those differences.
And if you’re a parent of a child who is typically developing, you want your children to understand respect those differences. Because now more than ever, your children will spend time with ours. They’re in the same classrooms, playgrounds, communities, and increasingly, the same families. We are friends and relatives, and we need to know we matter.
I urge you to dedicate a section of your magazine each week to the special needs community. There are many different parents raising kids with all different kinds of disabilities. Let us see them. Hear our voices. Present a platform that represents every parent, every reader. If your magazine, or part of your magazine discusses parenting, it is your duty to write about all kinds of children, and all kids of parents.
The father whose child isn’t able to sit up by herself at one year old wants to see himself when reading your magazine. The mother who can’t manage to take a shower because her children need to be watched constantly needs to see know she isn’t on her own. The grandparents who have never met anyone but their grandchild using a G-tube want to know there are others out there too. The mother who doesn’t understand why her toddler can’t say mama, let her read possible reasons in your magazine so that she might discuss them with her pediatrician.
When I read your magazine, I feel ignored and invisible, but I’m lucky enough to know that I’m not alone. You have it in your power to make all of us turn visible. Let us see ourselves in your pages.
Just another special needs parent.