Parents of the Past

One thing that strikes me as being  so very wrong within the disability community is the overwhelming lack of recognition and respect afforded  to the parents of the past.

Over the past 4 decades inclusion has been achieved primarily through  the efforts of multitudes of parents, who have turned their hearts and  their minds, to the task of creating social and educational equity both for and on behalf of their children.

These brave parents of the past battled against levels of discrimination and prejudice that thankfully we can now only imagine.

They were the first to call for the recognition of their children’s basic human rights.

They were the first to confront the lack of knowledge, awareness and acceptance of their children within mainstream society.

They were the first to throw their shoulders against the walls of segregated education.

They were the first to rally around and raise awareness of the need for greater educational support, teacher aides  and social skills learning programs in schools.

The parents of the past were the ones who knocked down the very first walls.

They are the ones who  have  constructed the gateway to the  social and educational inclusion that so  many of us now gratefully walk our children through.

Over the last 4 decades they have been joined by successive waves of parents equally as committed to  taking on the challenge  of creating open hearts and minds.

Yet these parents of the past, to whom we owe so much, are rarely acknowledged or even mentioned within either the disability community or  society as a whole.

It’s time we paid homage to those who have gone before us.

Our generation did not begin the process of inclusion.

We were not there at the start of the fight.

We need to acknowledge that our current successes in gaining support and understanding for our children simply, would never have happened, without the courage, persistence and strength of the parents of the past.

So if you know an older parent of an adult with a disability, please do not disregard them as if they are irrelevant because they may be no longer in the fight…..

Instead, take the time to thank them for their contribution to the laying of the  path, you are now fortunate enough to be walking on.


10 thoughts on “Parents of the Past

  1. It would be lovely to think that we could all stop fighting for our children now, because they have every service they need. Sadly, I was one of those “parents of the past” almost 16 years ago and was accused of some terrible things because nobody wanted the hassle of having to provide services for a child with profound autism.

    I may have won my own personal battle for my son, but I continue to fight for the parents and children of today. I’m committed to this fight until the day I die.

      • No family should ever suffer in the way that my son and I had to suffer; I even had to suffer the indignity of having a psychologist come and assess me because they thought I was making excuses for poor parenthood. She called me “delusional” and “socially immature” along with saying I was in denial about my inability to parent. None of this was true (well, perhaps the socially immature part – I was only 26 after all, and basically had to bring myself and my younger sister up alone as my mother was never home).

        I’m always fighting at the front line for a worthy cause. If I can save just *one* family from what I had to go through then I have achieved something for the autism community and the battle for understanding, education and awareness.

  2. Absolutely true, and often their fight for inclusion for their children didn’t come with any additional funding or support at all, not that it’s not fought for now either. I think in some respects the battle is a little less traumatic today because other have trodden the path before…but change sadly takes longer than some people have to fight and children age out of the system and there’s always another battle to fight, good on you for acknowledging that others have trodden the path before when it was totally obscured by weeds and wasn’t even a path :(

    • Thank you Mooneemum…. You are so right. Although children and young adults might time out of the system, they simply never time out of their parents love, compassion and will to fight for their rights. We owe so much to the parents of the past.

  3. what a lovely write up, beautiful thoughts and i agree with you,somewhere some people have faced the extremes and paved way making it a bit easier for us,we should thank them for that , it is a battle for recognistion,for rights,for proper acts and laws

    • Thank you Soma. I’m not sure why it is we don’t have parent hero’s but I think we should have some. After all we know that the fight for rights never ends no matter the era.

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