I have an invisible disability. I am not in a wheelchair, I never had an IEP, I was never eligible for a 504 Plan since they didn’t exist. I have an invisible disability.
Stop and take a look at me, listen to my story, read my words, you would never know that I have a disability.
I have been made fun of, openly insulted, bullied, put down, excluded, and hurt by the words and actions of others.
I have an invisible disability and I am not dumb. I am a twice exceptional adult, 2e that is also ADHD. What does that mean? I am gifted learning disabled and ADHD. What it really means is that I am smart and creative.
Over this weekend, I dragged my family to Baltimore, MD for a conference. What I thought would be a simple conference; turned into an opportunity that has me lit up like a Christmas tree. Advocates, attorneys, educators, and leaders in the special needs community came together for the Council of Parent Advocates and Attorneys annual conference, #copaa2014.
I met a woman from the deaf community that taught me to sign a little. I met a mom that started advocating for her child who now advocates for children in her community. I met attorneys that have worked on cases that have forever changed special education laws. I met the most inspiring and motivating people, and they didn’t judge me.
Ahhhh…that thing we don’t talk about in the special needs community. Yup, there’s judgment within the community and I’m sure when people read this they will start to judge. I don’t care. We need to stop treating special needs like it’s a competitive sport, stop the judgment, and focus on what matters.
What matters to me? It matters to me when a child is excluded for being in a wheelchair. They shouldn’t be. We have athletes competing at the Paralympics right now. Not sure why there’s any exclusion when it comes to sports or any activity.
Education matters. Children should not be put in learning environments that are restrictive, they should be encouraged to learn, not discouraged. The job of the school system and the parent is to find a least restrictive environment for that student. It’s all about teamwork.
Equal treatment matters. The advocate from the deaf community was one of the most intelligent and interesting people. I didn’t treat her any different than she treated me. We were two women getting lunch. Equal treatment matters.
Embrace the superpower of your disability. I have written about this before because it’s true. The disabled community is full of people that have a superpower. I see children that have superhuman strength, a heart that embraces our world with hugs, an ability to make people laugh. I know the value of our special needs community, do you?
I have an invisible disability. Please do not dismiss me because my special needs aren’t like yours. I have stood up again and again after being knocked down countless times. I just grow stronger. I just want to fight harder. I will not forget the rest of my community, my special needs community when I stand up again to fight.
Allow me to work with you, we can stand up together, we can make a change together, and wouldn’t it be beautiful to watch.