How much is neurotypicality embedded into our society? How closely do we insist on aligning with limiting definitions of the word ‘normal’ – a word itself that has come to mean ‘conformity,’ or ‘homogenisation?’ And most importantly, how do these ideas exclude those who don’t fit neatly into these boxes?
Parents of special needs children are by no means completely free of neurotypical-centred mindsets. It is almost inherent, a societal normalisation, and takes work for all of us to continuously unlearn; which is okay. With this work comes the necessity to accept other children with special needs that are more severe and seen as ‘behaviorally inappropriate,’ from parents who are fearful that this behaviour may ‘rub off’ onto their own children – all defined and steeped within the limited confines of respectability. I’m here to assure you that there is nothing to be afraid of.
The more I observe, the more it seems that in their haste to get into the ‘mainstream’, these parents reject having their children around more severely affected children. Putting neurotypical siblings in the same class as their siblings of the same age is an unpopular idea, even when they can be assured that their children’s education will be personalized to meet their needs nonetheless.
Curiously, I wonder why this is – and it often saddens me to realise that this is based around a dedication to ‘being normal,’ and to keep to the cookie-cutter ‘norm’ as closely as possible that divesting from the norm implies ‘difference’ in a way that is undesirable.
It makes me proud and happy to say that, contrary to most misgivings about studying with special needs children, my neurotypical kids have not only turned out perfectly fine but even flourished! 🌻 When inclusion was a foreign word that instilled fear toward the unique as opposed to how it is more (albeit gingerly) appreciated today; I wish to let this attest to the success our children can experience if only we could do away with these ideas of the norm, and the ‘norm’ itself that can benefit all children beautifully if we would just embrace this.
So here’s a challenge to parents – find a school that will put your special needs child and their ‘typical’ siblings in the same school in appropriate classes (not ‘special’ versus ‘normal’), and help them truly understand what it means to learn in a neurodiverse community.
Have the courage to take the road less travelled by putting your family and children out there as models for an inclusive society. After all, acceptance starts right here at home, for other families to aspire to once you make it an irrevocable, unabashed, and joyful norm to model in educational environments. Remember that the most severely affected children with special needs also deserve respect and empathy from the families of mildly affected children – to come together and build a world that can accommodate all. Because as long as one ‘level’ of neurodiversity is deemed unacceptable, the others are beholden to that idea as well.
We can do the work – together. 💛 Real change starts with the person you see in the mirror. Are you ready?
Read more about Pika’s vision here.