In the Spotlight

disability

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.


Acceptance

 

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31 Responses to In the Spotlight

  1. You’re one hundred percent spot-on. Matter fact the label you’re talking about it is the label and don’t label my kid. It’s the reason that I started that whole site. It would be different if the school also made those who are addicts , those who are of divorced parents, those who had a criminal record all wear t-shirts identifying their personal life but they’re not.

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    • mewhoami says:

      That is exactly what I was thinking. I’m so thankful that I don’t have to wear my weaknesses, mistakes or bad choices for all to see. How terrible that would be. Therefore, I don’t think it’s appropriate to ask that of others.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Unfortunately even people with good motives may be at school are actually just feeding the frenzy of the drug companies and the psychiatrists to want to continue to bring to attention all the needs for services some needed and some not.

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        • mewhoami says:

          Some needed and some not. That’s an excellent point. I firmly believe that not everyone with a label actually needs a label. I’d be labeled all sorts of things if I went to the ‘right’ person at the right time. Of course, there are MANY who do have valid special needs. I am not negating that, at all. But, I do believe that the pharmaceutical companies are making a killing off of this explosive disability epidemic we are seeing and therefore more and more people are getting diagnosed who shouldn’t me. Or, at the very least, they are getting medicated when they shouldn’t be. The same could be said though for a host of medical conditions as well. Focus needs to be on finding and correcting (if possible) the root of the problem, not putting on a band-aid.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. One more thing the consequences for the child of being in the spotlight as a label only serves to make them become more hyper- sensitive to their label and own more of it.. look at themselves as kind of an outcast. The correct approach would be to incorporate everyone disabled or not whatever their disability was into the same type of activities and mix them together so that they can show that they’re all the same inside

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  3. I’m with you. Why wasn’t the entire student body asked to wear t-shirts with the purpose of teaching acceptance? Now that would have been a much larger lesson!

    Liked by 1 person

    • mewhoami says:

      Yes! I completely agree. That would have made a much larger impact. Having gone to the school today, it has been confirmed that the only ones wearing the shirts were those with special needs and the staff working in that department. No other students, of the hundreds that I saw, were wearing them.

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  4. tric says:

    I understand where you are coming from on this one. I read a fellow bloggers post today. He is on the spectrum and he made the point that he feels this is very important, as more and more people know and have some understanding of autism and other disabilities, but that is very different to them accepting the difference and embracing it.
    I thought it was a good point, it shouldn’t have to be made, but I think it still needs to be and maybe in years to come will no longer need to be.

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    • mewhoami says:

      He made a good point and I think it’s great that he shared his thoughts on the subject. Sadly, as you said, we are still in a position where this needs to be out there so that people are made aware of it and acceptance can grow. I only wish that they could find a nicer way of doing it.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. joey says:

    Not a label-liker. I appreciate the concept of trying to break stigmas associated with people, who are after all, people regardless, but I’m not sure this was the right WAY. :/

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  6. joyroses13 says:

    I agree with you. I think they have good intentions, but are going about it the wrong way unfortunately!

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  7. I think you make some astute comments here. Those making the decision to do ‘this’ seem to be doing so with good intentions. But, was it discussed with the students or the parents to present both sides of this? That would have been a good discussion for the students, especially the older ones who may understand both sides (I’m not sure of the age range of all of the children involved). I think we (guilty here) have often jumped on an idea to ‘support’ and not recognized points like you make here. Thank you MWAI.

    Liked by 1 person

    • mewhoami says:

      Thank you for this comment. To have a meeting with the students (and parents) beforehand would have been wonderful. They are all high school age, but unfortunately not all of them are able or know how to speak up for themselves. My son for example, as far as I’m aware, doesn’t understand what the shirt means. All he knows is that his teacher asked him to wear it. So if he got unwanted attention yesterday or worse – teased, he wouldn’t have understood why. Good intentions definitely, but it just seems terribly unfair to the students.

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  8. geekkat says:

    I agree with you completely. On the one hand yes it is amazing that the school is trying to teach everyone that acceptance should be celebrated but on the other hand unfortunately the real world is not like that. The reality as everyone on here knows can be so hurtful at times. Does that mean we shouldn’t teach the new generation coming up how to be accepting? No it just means we have to teach both sides of it and make it understood not everyone will accept you no matter what you do and if they don’t then be proud of yourself no matter what.

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    • mewhoami says:

      Yes! Well said. There is no one who will be accepted by everyone. We can teach acceptance, hope for it and lead by example, but there will always be those whose minds tell them that different is bad or fair game for teasing. Sad, but true. Not only does wearing the shirt get the attention of people with that mindset, I think it would also be embarrassing for some of the children who were wearing it. As mentioned in another comment, I’m glad I don’t have to wear my weaknesses for all to see. You’re right though – no matter what, we should be proud of who we are and not allow others to take that from us. We’re all beautifully and wonderfully unique.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. stormy1812 says:

    I’m like you…I’m on the fence with this one. First – I generally agree that labels are a bad idea and perhaps the method chosen wasn’t the best one, BUT I wonder if there isn’t at least some good to come from it. The one thing I think about with the t-shirts is – first – it forces the kids to literally see those kids as just any other kids because they “look” just like themselves – some disabilities are in fact “invisible” so that helps give the notion of not judging someone (assuming someone is just weird instead of realizing that person may just perceive/interact in the world differently – you know the whole “you haven’t walked a mile in my shoes” bit). I also think that the shirts while in a negative way provide too much attention, it’s also good because I can’t help but wonder if the more “normal” it becomes, the more we “see” it, the less scary or mysterious it becomes and once that happens…a lot of the stigmas and misunderstandings, etc., etc. go away – which we need it to! That’s the same with mental illness…it needs to be talked about MORE, NOT less because the more acquainted with it we become, the less scary, the less mystique it has and there will in the end be more acceptance. People can tolerate without being educated, but they’ll never fully accept without it so while there can be some negative attention that comes with it and it’s certainly difficult, I can’t help but wonder if attention is what it needs. It’s just a thought and I could be wrong but it just seems that the more “normal” something (and things tend to be more normal when they’re out in the light – NOT spotlight – and not kept sort of hidden) is the more likely it is to be accepted and not just tolerated.

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  10. JoAnna says:

    Many excellent points have already been made. I wonder how the students and other parents felt about it. The school definitely needs some respectful feedback.

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    • mewhoami says:

      That’s a good question. I was unable to speak to any of the other parents and students about it, and it would be interesting to find out how they felt. I can’t imagine that I would be the only one who was bothered by it, especially given the comments I’ve seen here.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. I know what you mean about feeling torn. I have a visual impairment, which can also be seen as an invisible disability. There are times when I want to shout it from the rooftops and others when I don’t want that extra attention. It can be a hard balancing act because I feel that it needs to be brought more into the public eye so that people can become more aware and more educated on different disabilities and their affects but I also don’t want people to feel they can wrap me up in cotton wool either. It’s difficult but I would say it’s a step in the right direction, what the school is doing.

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    • mewhoami says:

      I can certainly see your viewpoint. Disabilities and even invisible health conditions need to have a certain degree of attention brought to them in order to educate others and to raise awareness. To what degree though, that is the question. Is too much, too much? Are there times in which we should just allow people to be people rather than insisting that they run around with a label on them? I want my son to be known for who he is, not for what he is and has. As with everything in life, there’s a limit. I think that rule of thumb applies here as well. Too much can be too much and too little, too little.

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