What if someone came to you and said the following things:
Why do we view "disability as a deficit model"? Meaning, why do we look at what people with learning differences are lacking or without? Why do we try to remediate those "deficits"?
Why are special education graduate programs geared towards teaching "behavior modification" in the classroom? Why aren't schools interested in understanding why kids think and behave the way they do but instead focused on fixing the "deficits" to fit in?
Why do we look at celebrities who have disabilities as achieving IN SPITE of their disability, rather than BECAUSE of it?
Why do some "first responders" like teachers and doctors view disorders like autism as the end of the world for our kids?
Why do we believe that people can not achieve because they have a label?
One twenty-eight minute video. And all these questions were asked.
I watched Garret Westlake, CEO of Stem Force Technology, talk, and my heart grew. I had hope for the future. Not just for my kids on the spectrum, but for any kid who has been labeled with a "disorder" or "disability". In his talk "Disability as a Catalyst", he lays out all these questions.
Garret flipped the world on its head for me.
We're told as parents that our kids' disabilities will hold them back.
But what if it's the very thing that moves them forward?
What if colleges looked at a student's individual strengths and what they could contribute to their campus community, rather than rejecting them based on a composite test score? What if employers did the same?
What if special education teachers were trained to understand the science behind our kids' brains? What if they knew how to find that spark that makes them special and bring it out?
What if our kids were made to feel proud of their learning differences? What if someone told them that their Asperger's was a strength, not a weakness?
What if the very thing that makes our kids "different" is what makes them more marketable? More in demand? More incredible?
What if we as parents knew that from the start?
Watch the video. As my friend Jess said over at a diary of a mom, people like Garret are "...creating a path to full participation, brazenly removing the barriers to success for people with autism – and doing it by standing the entire paradigm on its head. This is how it begins."
This is how it begins. I am a hopeful parent again.
For these guys:
And watch the whole video here:
"Do you know who I am
Do I know who you are
See we one another clearly
Do we know who we are.
We are of the spirit
Truly of the spirit
Only can the spirit
Turn the world around" - Turn the World Around by Harry Belafonte