A Facebook post about a child with autism goes viral for all the good reasons
A Facebook post by Leigh Merryday Porch, mother to a child with autism, about how inspiring stories about people with autism do more harm than good has gone viral for all the right reasons. Many parents have reacted positively to Leigh's words.
Social media sites are often flooded with posts and quotes about autism which are meant to inspire and motivate. But not everyone reacts to them the same way.
Leigh Merryday Porch, an American mother with a son on the spectrum has posted something on her Facebook page Flappiness Is, which seems to have resonated with many parents. Leigh says that inspirational stories about people with autism can often do more harm than good.
They are stories of autistic kids who didn't talk but do now, children who sing the national anthem, young women who compete in beauty pageants, and those on the spectrum who graduate from college. And you don't mind the stories, because human beings persevering in the face of adversity is a beautiful thing. But invariably, somewhere in the story is a quote that goes something like this- "When experts told her son would never talk, never have friends, never graduate, she declared 'Over my dead body.'" Those quotes are all sorts of inspirational - for some. But if you have a child whose disability is severe, such quotes are felt like a slap. Because some disabilities cannot be overcome. - Leigh Merryday Porch
Leigh adds that while disabilities can be accepted, worked with, planned for, and accommodated, no amount of parental love and determination can erase them. She cites the case of her son Callum, saying that he might never go to law school when he is older simply because he is not wired for it. This is a point that Leigh says all parents with a disabled child need to understand. The presence of a person with autism in the world who does not make it to the newspaper is not a statement of failure. "Not of society, not of his family, and certainly not of himself. And other than steadfastly insisting he be given every reasonable opportunity any other person has to live, learn, and grow, no other declarations need be made - and no dead bodies required, she adds.
In a competitive world, most parents tend to compare their children with their peers. Various studies show this negatively impacts the child. "For parents with a child with disability, the challenges are even more. That should not come in the way of giving their child the best opportunities.
Pratima Vikram Bhinge, who has a son with autism has started a venture in making customised toy boxes called Little Trovebox-By Kush. She says that every child with a disability is unique, with a separate set of struggles, challenges and strengths.
"As parents, we must accept the kid for what they are. It is a starting point from where you can find out ways and means to make your child independent. As parents, if we do not accept them, then how will others do it? After a point, every parent will understand what their child is capable of and what not. Every little thing that they achieve goes a long way. Believe in your child, accept, and respect them for what they are, says Pratima.
Chennai psychologist Grace Santosh, who has a son with autism, is dismissive of tags like supermom "I am not special for caring for a son who has autism but just another parent who would do the same thing regardless of whether my son has a disability or not. Today I know how to take positive and practical steps to secure my son's future
Clearly, every child, disabled or not, is special with its own positives and negatives. They all deserve love, care and attention. They need the freedom and opportunity to explore their own selves and find their place in the world.
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