Today, I found myself in a mental tug-of-war. My son and his fellow classmates were each asked to wear a t-shirt specifically designed for the purpose of teaching ‘acceptance’. Acceptance of their disabilities, to be exact.
On one hand, I’m happy that the school is promoting kindness and acceptance toward those who have special needs. When I was in school, I distinctly remember how everyone gawked at the students as they ventured out of the school’s special needs wing. I always felt bad for them because of how they were so closely scrutinized and many times teased, as they passed by.
For this reason, I commend the school for what they are doing to help these students be accepted by their peers. Like everyone else, they deserve to be treated kindly and with respect.
On the other hand, I try my hardest not to highlight my son’s disability. He has Autism. Fine. But, he doesn’t need to wear the label on his sleeve, literally. He, like most others with special needs, already have enough to deal with on an every day basis, without walking around in the spotlight. “Hey everyone! I’m already struggling to make it through my day without being seen as strange and different, so why not go all out? For everyone who doesn’t already know that I’m different, look at me! I have a disability!”
Perhaps this shouldn’t bother me, but it does. A lot.
Regardless, today my son chose to wear his t-shirt because he was asked to by his teacher, and he respectfully wanted to obey. For that, I commend him. So as I write this, he and several other children are walking around in the spotlight. They are promoting acceptance, but they are also drawing additional, and what could easily turn into bad and unwanted, attention.
Don’t misunderstand, no one should be ashamed of their disability, but not everyone with a disability wants it to be highlighted.
I’m very torn on how to feel about this. What the school is doing is both wonderful and terrible. Am I over-exaggerating or are my concerns valid and justified? I’m not sure, but I do know that it bothers me that my son is walking around in that t-shirt today.