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Monday
Apr082013

A Few Thoughts About Acceptance

I recently read the book A Regular Guy: Growing Up With Autism by Laura Shumaker. If your life seems like a series of meltdowns, and you think you'll enjoy discovering that you're not alone, read it. I think my favorite part, however, was a description of Camphill in Pennsylvania, a special school for young folks with developmental disabilities. 

Near the end of the book, in a chapter called "Acceptance", Shumaker describes her reaction to a phone message her brother left her about new treatment modalities for autism. Here's what she writes:

"I have grown to dread the news reports on autism breakthroughs and the phone calls that followed them because of the way they make me feel. Angry. Offended. Insecure. Guilty.

 "I feel angry because I have tried so many treatments already: speech therapy, psychotherapy, auditory training, behavior modification, psychotropic drugs. Can't people see how hard I've worked?

 "I'm offended because they can't accept Matthew as he is. Can't they appreciate his honesty, his humor, and the pureness of his soul?"... "Matthew is now an adult, and I accepted long ago that he will not be cured of autism. I want others to accept this, too." 

This issue comes up often in my conversations with teachers and parents. I hope that you, the reader, explore the subject too.  And let's take this beyond autism, to any challenge your loved one or student or client has. 

Acceptance can mean Okay. They're alright the way they are. They can be respected for who they are. Recognized for who they are. Loved for who they are. Such acceptance does not need to get in the way of helping them take their next step, or searching for new ways to address their challenges.

Acceptance can mean acknowledgment. Acknowledging that a person has a disability that may always get in their way, for example, rather than denying it. I think this is the kind of acceptance that Shumaker was hoping to get from her brother and others.

But then we need to watch out for that fine line between acknowledgment and resignation, the giving up, the surrender. "I want these parents to understand that this child will never speak!" a teacher's aide told me just a couple of days ago. She thought she was talking about acceptance. I disagree. Just like I disagreed with Shumaker, and wished she'd found a way to let go of her "Angry. Offended. Insecure. Guilty" feelings, let go of the "how hard I've worked", and kept her mind open to new modalities and new discoveries. Her son can't do this by himself. 

 

 

 

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