The Teacher’s Kid – It’s not what you think…

I had the opportunity this evening to enter into a discussion with a colleague: a fellow teacher who is also the parent of a five-year-old Autistic son.

So as we talked this man commented, “It is great that you are a teacher – I’ll bet you’ve been able to be a great advocate for your son within the school system. Our kids are fortunate.”

And I suppose this is true in many respects: my understanding of the system has supported us in navigating it in varying degrees and I recognize that it has been an advantage.

But… the thing is… that is not actually how I responded.

I might have caught him off-guard when I said, “No… my son has benefitted much more from my being a Social Justice Activist! It is ACTIVISM that has made the difference. Our Autistic, Neurodivergent, and otherwise disabled children need us to show them how to be activists so that they can advocate for themselves.”

I hadn’t really considered it before… but as I listened to my own words I knew they held truth for me…

As educators and parents we are positioned to model radical acceptance and to ensure the space and pace for children with disabilities to know and understand and feel pride in who they are. When they know themselves deeply and with respect – it is then that they can reject the message that they must conform to be okay, accepted, valued, or to belong.

H turned 19 today… and I am looking forward with excitement and pride at this fabulous Autistic and otherwise Neurodivergent man who now towers above me.

And too… I cannot help but look back and see that raising my son to feel comfortable with who he is and to understand that he can push back against injustice and discrimination and ableism is one of the most powerful things I have offered as a parent.

As H ‘s childhood recedes, to be honest – I am a little surprised that I feel no sadness or melancholy as I think back upon this journey.

But it is hard to feel anything like melancholy when I observe this spectacular human’s sense of self that makes him comfortable in advocating for what he might need – or not need – or need in a different way. Along with this confidence, he has developed a sensitivity to extend his understanding beyond himself. He understands that he experiences both privilege and oppression and how his experience of being disabled intersects with the lives and stories of other people who face discrimination or exclusion or injustice. I see him pushing back against oppression – even when it is not about him.  It is beautiful…

Looking forward…

Next steps…

Image of H and Craig sillouetted at the Othello Tunnels – in a similar position as the avatar and header image for 30DoA. Blue text reads: “Our Autistic, Neurodivergent, and other disabled children need us to show them how to be activists so that they can advocate for themselves.”


About Leah Kelley, Ed.D.

Leah Kelley, M.Ed, Ed.D., Writer, Consultant, Activist, Speaker, and Educator, working with Teacher Candidates at UBC. Authors blog: 30 Days of Autism. Projects support social understanding, Neurodiversity paradigm, Disability Justice, and connecting Disability Studies in Education(DSE)to Educational Practice. Twitter: @leah_kelley Facebook: 30 Days of Autism: Leah Kelley
This entry was posted in Activist, Advocacy, Autism, childhood, Disability, Educator, neurodivergent, Parent, prejudice, Teacher and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to The Teacher’s Kid – It’s not what you think…

  1. Pingback: Electronic Resources: Arizona TASH 2018 | Thirty Days of Autism

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