Monday, October 19, 2015

Where are our special children?

The other day in Australia where I was holidaying with my younger two, Mikail my 11 year old commented, “I have never seen so many special people anywhere before”. He had given voice to his observation whereas I had been silently noticing the same through our trip to the various amusement parks and other recreational facilities.

Mikail’s comment made me happy and sad at once. Happy that what he had said was true and sad because for him seeing people with disabilities and differences in public places was a novelty, hence his comment.

But then Mikail has only lived in countries where special needs children and people with disabilities are  considered a burden, an embarrassment and a lost cause by the majority. As deplorable as it may sound it is the truth.

I remember growing up in Pakistan how it would instil fear in me to come across someone who was ‘not normal’. This fear I was to face years later when own my son was diagnosed with autism and at the beginning of the discovery I was almost afraid of who he was. I believe my reaction was quite normal considering that the unknown can be scary and in my childhood children with special needs were rarely heard of or seen; at least I had rarely come across any.

Correct me if I am wrong but the reality has not changed much today. If the answer to most of the following questions is a NO, then we stand where we did decades ago in terms of accepting disabilities and differences!

How many of your typical children know what Autism, Down’s Syndrome or Dyslexia is? Have they ever interacted with or been around children with special needs? Have you ever made a conscious effort to invite a child with special needs to your house to play with your children? Does your child have a special needs classmate?

If the answer to most or all of the above is a YES then that’s the way to go!

It is a collective failure as a society if our special children are unable to access the same resources, environment and quality of education as our typical children. As parents of children with and without differences, it is our duty to make this world a better place for all of our children for they are all equally precious.

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