Thursday, July 13, 2006

Miles to Go

When my youngest daughter was about 4 months old she started Early Intervention and a teacher came to the house a couple times each week to work with her. One morning when I was on the phone with a (very wise) friend my oldest daughter, who was 4 years old at the time, asked me why she didn't have a special teacher.

I was flustered, but my friend didn't miss a beat--she coached me through the whole conversation. She told me to look her in the eye and firmly say, "Because you don't need one."

I followed her direction and my daughter looked at me, said "Oh." and went back to playing. It never came up again.

My friend then said to me, "No guilt and no waffling, Terri. They will have different struggles and different opportunities all their lives. Fair is not everyone getting the same thing, it's everyone getting what they need."

J-Mac got an award from ESPN last night, he's met celebrities and the president, and gotten lots of accolades since his stellar basketball game last February. I've had my concerns as a disability advocate that the publicity wouldn't create the impact I hope for, but I have really enjoyed watching his success.

Sadly, much of the response to the J-Mac hoopla in this area has been negative.

One teenage boy, sitting with my family at lunch this spring crabbed about the whole J-Mac situation for 10 minutes ending by saying the he was afraid that Rochester would be known as a "retard city."

I honestly do not know if he felt comfortable saying that to us because he is so familiar with my daughter that he doesn't see her as having a disability or because he values her so little that he thinks it doesn't matter if he says something horribly hurtful about her...

I am so impatient for a culture where everyone's struggles are supported, everyone's contributions are sought and valued, and everyone's successes are celebrated.

Are we there yet? Are we there yet? Are we there yet?

Guess not.