Welcome to… A Typical Life?!? (and I have a disability!)

Welcome to… A Typical Life?!? (and I have a disability!)

by Torrie J. Bryant

Torrie is a 22-year-old college student. She is majoring in Print Journalism, with a minor in women’s studies. She is a bibliophile, loves to write, surf the ‘Net, ride her bike, ski, and watch Jeopardy! She is a radical feminist as well as a radical Deaf and Disability Rights advocate.

The parent’s disability networking movement in America has quite possibly produced the sappiest, corniest body of literature known to humankind on the planet. It allows parents to wallow in pity for their poor “wittle cwippled” children who will never be “healthy” or “normal” or be “able to do anything”. One of the prime examples of this is Welcome to Holland (WTH).

This poem was written by Emily Pearl Kingsley and compares the experience of raising a child with disabilities/special health care needs to planning a trip to a foreign country and getting off the plane in another country. While raising some kids with disabilities (especially those with severe/profound issues) may be like going to Holland, when you were expecting to go to Italy, raising a kid with most disabilities is just like raising any other kid.

I am hard-of-hearing but growing up I was just like anyone else on the block. I read the Babysitter’s Club and Trixie Belden, watched the Muppets, watched Saturday morning cartoons, played four-square, collected American Girl dolls, was horse-crazy, listened to the New Kids on the Block, played soccer and softball and did everything that anyone else did. The only difference between me and the girl down the street was that I wore hearing aids and she didn’t. Why does that make me “special” or an “angel”? Why did that mean that my parents “went to Holland” when I was diagnosed as being hard of hearing? Sure my parents had to take me to ten million doctor appointments every year, (all my specialists as well as my pediatrician) but they didn’t have to “suffer the loss of a dream.”

Just because someone may have what other people think of, as a “limitation” doesn’t mean that it DOES limit their life. People with disabilities can do almost anything and many of them can adapt to their disability and live satisfying, rich, full lives. Parents shouldn’t feel like they have to give up their dreams for their child who has a disability. We, who live with disability day in and day out, are as full of potential as anyone else.

Disability doesn’t mean “unable” We may use a wheelchair to get around but we could be President someday. We may be deaf/HOH but we could be Miss America or a basketball player for the WNBA. We may have Down syndrome but that doesn’t mean we can’t be an actor. We may have a million other disabilities but they do not mean that we can’t live rich full satisfying lives that are almost identical to lives of people without disabilities.

Maybe parents of newly dx children can see what we are doing and throw away that copy of “Welcome to Holland”.

Maybe it will make parents realize that they don’t have to “cure” their child or throw away their dreams for the child, just because something unexpected happened.

Life itself is unexpected. Virtually nobody goes through life without something unexpected happening. WTH could also be a metaphor for a teen telling their parents that they’re gay, or that. Smashly wants to become a janitor instead of a high powered CEO.

Welcome to Reality, parents! No one is perfect. You just found that out sooner then most other parents. You aren’t in Holland. Your kid is still a kid and raising them is going to be like raising their siblings. Sure they may wear hearing aids, or use a cool purple wheelchair to get around, or use Signed language, or, breathe through a trach, or read Braille, or have more doctor appointments then birthdays or have to give themselves shots or any of a billion other health-related differences. However your kid will still be a typical kid. They will just have something “different” about them.

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