It's a statement that's totally impossible to disagree with. I've certainly said it, or variations thereof, time and time again in advocating for accommodations in the classroom, at the swimming pool. and elsewhere for Charlie.
Much as that statement rings true, I think there's a bit of a dangerous side to it. If we only emphasize the differences among our children (and ourselves, and our experiences), what do we have to talk about, to share, to find community in?
TH is the oldest son of Emily at A Life Less Ordinary?. He's is 8 years old and has Asperger's and he couldn't be more different from Charlie in many ways. And yet there are tremendous overlaps and parallels. Emily is now homeschooling TH after a pretty wrenching (understatement several times over) experience in the public schools. Unlike Charlie, TH was mainstreamed. Like Charlie, there seem to be some, what to call them, limits to what a public school is willing to do to fully accommodate kids who don't "fit the mold." (Though after reading about physical attacks on TH by other children, and by one girl in particular, I'm really wondering who're the children whose "behaviors" need addressing.) The outrage Emily's written about---coupled with extensive efforts to educate the school and others about TH and the autism spectrum---ring very familiar. We don't homeschool Charlie and, frankly, don't think it would work for him. But the seemingly eternal quest to find a way to create a world, a space, for our children to fit in, the dogged efforts to try to make that happen and the troubled feelings when it doesn't work out---for all the differences on the surface, I feel that TH's and Charlie's stories are very similar.
Dimitri is the only child of Emma at The Iron Chicken. He is 10 and has Angelman's Syndrome and lives in Athens; I was fortunate to get to meet Emma when I was in Greece with students last March. Dimitri and Charlie have different diagnoses and live in completely different places. Often when I'm reading Emma's accounts of taking Dimitri on public transport, of picky eating habits, of long days together, I feel like it's precisely what I've gone through taking Charlie on the subway (which we have taken an indefinite hiatus from); wondering if he's ever going to eat anything other than store-bought sushi or take-out in plastic containers again; recalling long hot summer days or freezing cold winter ones when it seemed that he and I had run out of options of what to do and it would be hours still when Jim could get home on the train from the Bronx.
And just to strike a little note of holiday cheer, warmth, good will, peace on earth to all humankind and that sort of thing, I'm grateful so much for blogland, for making it possible to be part (however virtually) of a community of families with children with disabilities, of individuals with disabilities.
Not everyone has to endure sending their child day after day to a public school environment that gets so hostile we just have to take our kids out.
Not everyone sights a stranger with, for instance, a McDonalds bag or worry beads, and goes on guard lest one's child tries to take those.
There's way too many other bloggers and blogs, friends and families and parents to note so, at the risk of getting mushy, I'll just send out a huge THANK YOU FOR SHARING. And just THANK YOU.And having gone on about the benefits and community-building of blogging, I thought I'd mention a relatively new entrant into blogland who just happens to my dearly beloved fellow Autismland traveler, Jim. He's been writing more on The Irish Waterfront and not only about the book or the waterfront or "feeling Irish" but, more and more, this country of difference that we all have found ourselves inhabiting.