Our guest blogger for this month is Rachel Gerberding. She studied philosophy and theology at Seattle University. Rachel is a writer and parent of a young person with exceptional needs from the Pacific Northwest. Her blog is as follows:
“If I could convey something to people who have strong opinions and care a lot about a given subject, it’s that passion is not the same as truth, and expressing something emphatically does not make what one is saying factual.
I was recently engaged in a discussion about an admittedly controversial classroom behavioral management tool that is sometimes used with severely behaviorally challenged students. The discussion arose in response to an article written about a court ruling centered around this classroom tool.
I asked, “What led to the use of this tool in this circumstance?” several times.
The reply was that details don’t matter.
Except that this was about a legal judgement and involved ethical accusations against a prominent doctor in the autism community.
That is precisely when details matter the most.
I think the perception of autism parents is that we are either saints, or dimwitted, or rabid. As saints, we are thought to sacrifice our own personal needs and wants in order to provide all the best care for our kids. As dimwits, we are considered utterly blind to what our kids are manifesting and tend to deny the the severity of their conditions. As rabid mama bears, we see what’s happening and we manage to sweep everyone else up in our blanket of blame. The teachers don’t know what they’re doing, we shout! The doctors are in it for the money, we cry! Everyone else needs to be more understanding, we plead.
When we parents come right out and say that details are irrelevant and only our outrage is important, we damage our status as equals in our kids’ educations and healthcare. We make the professionals in their fields regard us as fools, and even when our concerns are legitimate, we are no longer heard because of how loud and long we bellowed about something else the day before.
Advocating for our kids is important, of course. But advocating for facts and accuracy is just as important. It may be more tedious to pursue than pure anger, but no one benefits from crazy rage.
I’ve had to talk myself down more than once as a mom. I have learned over the years that I do not care for the taste of crow, and as much as I like to bake, humble pie is my least favorite.
I hope that we parents of complex children will be able to realistically prioritize our rage. It’s necessary, sometimes, to be sure. But other times, it’s simply a rogue grenade. Keep the pin in it.”