For someone with a disability, it’s hard to put into words the level of shame that is connected to being disabled to someone who has no connection at all. In fact, I haven’t found the words yet. Shame is too woven into my brain chemistry that I can’t objectify it yet with language.
When you are a kid and you are disabled, your whole goal in life is to blend in. Many people whose identities are connected to marginalized communities will talk about how as a kid, “they just wanted to be like everyone else.”
The intense effort in hiding that disabled children define their day by, confuses non-disabled well-meaning adults. “Why don’t you just ask for help?” Beyond the obvious, that victim blaming disabled children for their lack of education supports is ridiculous, IT HAPPENS!
Even when children are offered supports in school, they are sometimes rejected, as kids don’t want to stick out. The desire for social acceptance is too strong. Survival is the priority, and that survival is the social atmosphere of school. It’s a tough environment.
Children are naturally impulsive, honest, and impatient. They ask us questions that make us chuckle, or turn red in public, or test our own patience level. We find cuteness and innocence in the childlike features. These features are also the very reason why disability needs to be talked about in schools and why adult guidance is essential. Left unchecked, and it can create a hostile environment for a disabled child. Sometimes to combat the bullying and oppression, education presentations are done in the class. By the time these are done, in grade six or seven, it’s almost too late. What ends up happening is the opposite occurs. The bullying increases. The bullies now have new language to use. Many families have experienced this, and the presentations were their last resort, and now school transfers are what is next on the agenda.
Kids who are forced to leave programs because of their disability and being systemically weeded out or being bullied by other kids, don’t forget it. Overt or covert acts of ableism stick to us and don’t fall off. They get absorbed and compound.
Children who need help, are rarely going to ask for it. The adults are going to need to pick up on the evidence laid out in front of them. Teachers need disability training. They need disability literacy skills to navigate disabled students through the education system. Without formal diversity and disability training, true inclusion is just a run-away train, and what is left in the dust…is shame.