Ok, normally I post only about Cam and our family but this time I think I may speak for others in the disabled community because I can't imagine we are the only people that experience this. I just have decided after years of questioning, wondering and sitting back waiting and watching that I should clear this up. Whether or not it has any impact, I don't know. I would hope that somewhere it causes someone to pause and think twice before excluding someone based on what they think is better for that person.
So every year Cam goes to school and talks about how many friends he has, he has great birthday parties with lots of friends, we had an amazing amount of support for the benefit, we've had great turnouts at BBQ's at our house, yet our mailbox and phones seem to only work outbound????? Nothing ever comes in.......no calls for play dates, no mail for birthday invites, no pool party invitations, no summer BBQ's, no beach days with friends, no multi-family weekend trips. It seems as though year after year as Cam gets older and his ability to participate like every other child his age diminishes, the invites get less and less. At first, Kevin and I questioned ourselves. Maybe it was us, maybe the parents didn't like hanging out with us? Maybe we misunderstood the relationship with parents from school? Then we would see everyone again at a function and they would all talk about getting together and how much fun they had, yet nothing? So I started reevaluating the situation and came to this conclusion:
I think people in general are nervous/afraid to invite someone with a disability to a function for fear they might offend them because it's something they can't do or participate in, or they are worried they won't be able to accommodate them. Well, I'm hear to tell you it is quite the opposite! Trust me when I say that person and/or their family will let you know if they cannot attend because it's just not something they are comfortable with or can do, but would much rather have had the opportunity to decline themselves rather than have someone make that decision for them. When you have a disability so many things are out of your control and so many decisions are made for you everyday, being a friend and participating in activities shouldn't be a decision made by others. I will tell you 9 times out of 10 Cam would rather be invited and go knowing he can only participate somewhat than to never be invited at all. I don't think it used to be so hard to hide it from Cam, but as he gets older and social media becomes more popular it seems to stare him in the face everyday.
As parents it's always hard to watch your kids grow and friendships form, friendships fade, feelings get hurt, the normal kid stuff. But it's 10 times harder knowing they weren't invited just because someone assumed they couldn't do it or that it would be too hard for them.
Trust when I say this isn't a woe is me, feel sorry for myself moment. This is a statement that I think many of us feel, but don't know how to express for fear of offending someone, or worse yet, worrying that the next invite is out of pity! I don't ever want someone to feel sorry for Cam, or us, or feel obligated to include him. I just don't want him, or any other child with a disability, to be excluded based on thinking that it's just too hard for them or they can't do it.
All we ever want for our children is to for them to be treated just like everyone else......... And if you don't know, just ask and we will probably tell you more than you want to know :)