Special Education Law Blog: A is for Artist, B is for Belief
By Lori Fox
Raising a child with a disability can be fraught with seemingly endless periods of hopelessness. You bargain away abilities, offering them up to the Universe, in exchange for some other certainty, only to realize there is no certainty in disability — except for one: individuals with disabilities don’t fit the mold. And because they don’t, school staff, career counselors and even parents, oftentimes give up all hope of pointing them toward a happy, successful and fulfilling life. More importantly however, it is because individuals with disabilities are individuals, they should be seen, treated, and encouraged as such. Paths should fit the individual, and measures of success should be uniquely calibrated.
This weekend, I hit a milestone of my own; I experienced what it was like to be proud of my son. Pure pride! Not the kind of pride mixed with an apology, nor the kind of pride you need to over-explain, or over-justify, for an outsider to even try to pretend to validate, but the kind of pride with which I’d never expected my family and I would be blessed. It is because of this experience, and in hopes of inspiring other parents, especially those at the beginning of their journey, or wallowing at the local Dairy Queen, that I wanted to share my steadfast belief that we need to pound their outdated mainstream, traditional, milestones into rubble, and create non-conventional pillars of achievement of our own.
My son, now 25 years old, along with other highly-talented, edge-pushing, opinion-changing artists with disabilities, received recognition for his art in an exhibit at the Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art. The exhibit, entitled A is for Artist, is not a “cotton balls and glue” “good job, Buddy,” kind of art show. It is a legitimate display of artistic talent that validates just one of the alternate paths to success that individuals with disabilities are not often told they can take.
Twenty-five years ago, I would never have envisioned that my son would one day have a career, as an artist or otherwise. I feared there was no valued place in society to which he could aspire. And certainly, no persons other than those in his immediate family who would celebrate his contribution to any community. Yet, to my glorious delight, a young woman at the exhibit opening, said the most beautiful, eye-opening, reality-changing words I’d ever heard: “I’m a fan of your son’s work.” If that’s not a reason to change anyone’s belief-system toward people with disabilities, I don’t know what is.