In the middle of a historic pandemic with social distancing measures, people are starting to grieve the loss of their previous life.
Parents on Facebook take the space to grieve the loss of their child’s friend’s birthday party or prom. They post pictures of the good old days when their child was surrounded by friends and we didn’t have to socially distance. I completely feel their pain and grieve as well, but not because my child lost these things.
It’s because my child with a disability never had them to begin with.
For my daughter with developmental and learning disabilities and for many other children like her, this is their everyday reality. At the risk of making this sound bitter, I wanted to take the opportunity to bring awareness.
When we no longer have to socially distance, I hope you will remember the child with a disability who is always forced to sit on the sidelines, global pandemic or not. A child just like yours in most ways. A child who longs for friends. A child who wants to be included. A child who loves to play. A child who wants social interaction with peers. A child who would love to be invited to the movies, a birthday party, or for a play date but who is stuck at home. A child who feels lonely. The only difference is my child feels this way all the time, not just in the middle of a pandemic.
When your child without a disability can once again rejoin their friends, I beg you to remember how awful it felt when they were without them for just a couple of months. I beg you to remember so you can encourage your child to reach out to the child with a disability who is always sidelined, regardless of a pandemic. That feeling they have now is how my child feels all the time.
I ask that you teach them acceptance.
My child may not understand social norms, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t have that internal desire to have a friend. My child may need more patience. My child may need more understanding. But she, like your child, desperately wants to feel like she belongs.
If the pandemic can be used for anything good, I pray it’s to educate others how it feels to be cut off from human contact. To have more love, more kindness and more inclusion for all.
For more on parenting during quarantine, check out the following stories from our community: