SOME subjects are taboo. Disability is one. They make normally lucid, intelligent people die of embarrassment and squirm before they quickly change the subject.
The very mention of a person with a disability stops all conversations DEAD. There, I have said it. Normally polite people clam up, wait until you have left the room and then in either hushed tones or silently as though mimicking some mime artist say the words: “Their child has learning difficulties.”
Why? Thankfully we no longer lock people who are learning disabled away – well not as many anyway. Many of the people we serve live at the heart of their communities working, learning and socialising. They are highly visible and yet we shy away from talking to their parents about them believing that they will get upset or embarrassed about their very existence.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
ubu parents are immensely proud of their sons and daughters and relish the prospect of talking about them. What hurts is when strangers become embarrassed or quickly change the subject when they tell people their child has learning difficulties and don’t ask the same questions they would ask of other parents. ubu parents aren’t embarrassed about having an adored son or daughter that they’re immensely proud of.
ubu parents don’t struggle to discuss disability; everyone else does. So what should you talk about?
Well the chances are you’re sharing the parental journey. Your trials and tribulations are theirs. Talk about them. Ask away about their progress at school. Celebrate with them their children’s achievements. They are all a cause for celebration. Commiserate at their shortcomings. The people we serve have them as well as everyone else. And don’t their parents know it!
ubu parents and enablers are just like every other mum and dad. Proud of their son or daughter’s achievements, excited to talk about their progress and eager to share experiences. Why wouldn’t you talk about them?
Don’t apologise when they tell you their child has learning difficulties. The life of a child is something to celebrate, hip hip hooray! Why say sorry for someone who is fulfilling their own and their parents expectations and more!
Don’t say it must be difficult. Parenting is difficult, ask the parent of any teenager! What is difficult is the assumption that you have some somehow failed, or have something missing from your life because your child has special needs. You don’t and like every other parent ubu parents feel blessed because of their children.
Put your prejudices aside. Until you have asked them, you really don’t know how they feel or what it is like juggling the care of a son or daughter with learning difficulties with a job, home, other siblings, and still trying to have a life of their own. Yes, just like you and I they want that too! So ask away. They won’t be upset.
Denying ubu parents the chance to speak about their children is like society denying their very existence. Don’t deny them the chance to speak about their son or daughter the way they will never deny you.
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