Recently I had to face up to a not very pleasant part of myself.
My child has autism. He looks just like other kids but he behaves very differently. He spends most of the week at my side and so I see only my son. I understand him better than other people do and I guess I underestimate the extent of his difference to other children as a result of that.
I went to visit a specialist school last week, where he will attend the new kinder next year. It was a challenging visit emotionally for me.
When we see disability on the television we tend to see the bright, happy child in a wheelchair on Sesame Street, or the chirpy little girl with prosthetic legs. And while I am glad to see disability represented at all, what we do not see often is that many are quite physically different again. And some not at all. And I have no excuse for the fact that I don't always know where to look or what to say. That in my want to be appropriate and inclusive possibly I am being condescending instead.
As it turns out, I have a disabled child. And these days people sometimes look at him in the same way, when his behaviour is noticeably different. And then I get the sympathy look or the 'you are doing a great job' conversation.
Whilst that is lovely and well meant, and far preferable to the nastiness we sometimes see, there is an implication that my child is a chore for me to manage. A job to be completed. And I am well aware that I have done the same thing in the past.
All the children I saw at the school are there because it is where they need to be. Some were physically challenged. Some were not. All have someone out there who loves them like I love my son, and who want them to lead a fulfilling life. In a heartbeat I suddenly saw that my son is the same, and that he is different.
And that I have been blind to so much for so long.