Wednesday, February 12, 2014

See the Human Being First Not the Disability

My first post up at The Times of Israel


I am asked over and over what is the hardest thing about raising a child with special needs. Undoubtedly, the biggest issue is that when you deal with a person who has an invisible disability, like autism, society can be very cruel. The world talks a big game about acceptance and respect for differences, but in the end, “square pegs cannot fit into a round hole” and society punishes them for their divergence. 

Invisible disabilities are greatly misunderstood. I suppose it’s easy for society to get a handle on someone with physical limitations. Society has concrete methods in dealing with access and modifications of surroundings for those unable to use conventional methods to get around. But when society is confronted with an able bodied individual, who functions with a different brain-operating system (autism), society simply shuts down and shunts them away. Pushes them to the fringes. Out of sight out of mind.

Oh society pats itself on the back that they have done a tremendous thing allowing persons with disabilities into their schools, professions or legislates their right to live in neighborhoods. Yet no one really ever takes the time to try to understand persons with autism. They do not take the time to understand the idiosyncrasies of who they are and why they are just this little side of different. Because “different” scares people. This fear is then passed on to their children. And, society teaches children to shun those that are dissimilar. In reality, when someone is a little different, we keep him or her at arms length and turn them into that boogeyman from our childhood. The result is to malign, ignore and alienate those with invisible disabilities. Society ends up seeing only the disability, forgetting the human being before them. In the end, society’s disenfranchisement becomes an actualized form of bullying.