Sleepless Nights

As a parent, what keeps you tossing and turning at night? For me, it’s not my son’s disability. Rather, I worry about commonplace societal risks he faces because he’s labelled disabled. Yes, there’s been headway with inclusion. However, dismissal, judgement and intolerance remain threats in everyday environments, with potentially serious consequences. Families are all too familiar with such harsh realities—segregated classes, cutbacks in aide support, hasty judgements, bullying, zero tolerance policies, encounters with the law. The list goes on.

Personal experience and disturbing trends reinforce that our fears are well founded. Parents know all too well how reactive, authoritative responses to impulsive or anxious outbursts can trigger explosive situations, rather than defuse them. No wonder we stress!

So, how can we influence situations where we don’t have a lot of control or recognized authority? Stay informed, educate, expect accountability, gather allies and try to build bridges, not burn them. The best anyone can do is to work with what you do have, starting with self-control. That can feel like a tall order, especially when shaking inside or furious with a sense of injustice. I’m not saying be silent, but remain calm and clear. Focus is essential to doing what is best in the moment.

Interested in seeing a real-life example? YouTube showcases a fine example of a mother’s actions when her autistic son was pepper strayed by police in Kodiak, Alaska (2016). I’m proud to know many determined mothers who would act with such singularity of focus. I like to think that I’d be that strong, while praying that I’m never put to the test. How about you?

Susan Dunnigan

January 2022