"She doesn't think of herself as disabled," hostile stare at me, "and that's as it should be."
I was told.
We were all set up to do a consultation when the parent who arrived informed us all the ways that his foster daughter wasn't appropriate for our service. No behaviour problem. No sexuality problem. No intellectual disability.
Yep, he's right, that puts her right out of our mandate. All she was, he said, was a kid with a physical disability who had questions about sexuality. I told him that I could give him a list of resources for kids with physical disabilities and he looked at me and said, "I think I could find those as quickly as you could."
OK, why the hostility? I understand that this was a wasted trip for him - we don't provide the service he asking for, but we've apologized, offered other assistance and he won't stop. Then he figures we need to hear her history of coming into care with him as a foster father. Sure. Why not. I love a story.
But it wasn't much of one. She came into care. He is a miraculous kind of foster dad who brought her out of herself and now you wouldn't believe she's the same girl. We smiled and nodded. He mentioned that she liked looking things up on the web.
I thought, "Why not" and told him to get her to take a look at the OUCH website. I know I write for OUCH and an biased but I think it's one of the best disability sites on the web. I told him it was about disability pride and disability community and she'd probably have fun with their quizzes and their humour.
He leveled his gaze at me and hit me with, "She doesn't see herself as disabled ..." Followed by an icy cold stare and "which is as it should be."
I glanced out and saw her. A nice looking 15 year old girl in a wheelchair. We hadn't met her because he hadn't allowed it. He wanted to check us out first, our service was found wanting, and now they were leaving.
Their early departure allowed me almost 40 minutes to sit back, close my eyes, and sream at him, have the outright fight and debate with him, ultimately tell him that I thought he was a smug over controlling guy who needed to get his own act together before he guided his child in any direction at all.
That done. I thought about it. Have I really gone off the rails? Why is it 'as it should be' that a person with a disability doesn't see themselves as having a disability. Particularly when they do. My friend Susan sees herself as a woman - I know because she was there with me and I asked her. Why is it good and healthy and desireable for everyone else to see themselves as who they are. Gay people see themselves as gay. Black people see themselves as black. Even Shriners see themselves and Shriners for heaven's sake. Self acceptance is part of the package for everyone else and self denial is what's left on the plate for those with disabiliteis.
What would be wrong with a 15 year old girl thinking about herself as a disabled girl? Oh and don't go giving me that 'person first language stuff'. I've never heard anyone say about themselves to themselves, I am a person who's a woman, I'm a person who's gay, I'm a person who's black, I'm a person who's Christian. Disabilities it seems has to go second, after person, because somehow the personhood is supposed to lessen the impact of the word disabled.
Warning, don't ever call me 'a person who's disabled' cause I'm a disabled guy. That's it.
Anyways, back to ranting here. I think it's neglect to have a disabled child and to parent them in such a manner that they spend a lot of time and energy into denying disability ...
"I'm just like you." This doesn't sound like a statement of pride it's like begging you to not notice or comment on my disability so you in your superiority and pity can let me go about the day with my delusion intact and you have your vaulted status reinforced.
Of course people with disabilities are different. Different doesn't mean LESS THAN it just mean difference. And the disability community isn't a step down ... it can't be ... we're not good with steps.
I shook myself, I always win the arguments I have with others in my own head so I felt cleansed by my indignation.
OK, then ... NEXT.