This last week I visited the Human Rights Museum here in Winnipeg for the second time, the first time was about 3 years ago. It is a remarkable experience, and this last visit I found it more profound and personal as I was drawn to reading historical stories and messages about people with different abilities and children's rights.
When you first enter the museum galleries, you are met with great impact and a statement that is so simple and the basics of humanity.
"All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights."
I am happy that we have a of Universal Declaration of Human Rights, but it is also sad that we had to create this to uphold ourselves to basic respect and acceptance of our fellow human selves. It was a very profound experience reading, listening, and watching what others have been through. My friend and I had to stop and digest the information and personal stories many times before continuing on. We also both found ourselves in tears from being moved by the hardship and destruction we learned about.
I had a particularly difficult time reading about the personal stories of people with disabilities and how they were treated. I know that we live in a more modern time and we have definitely come a long ways, but I was saddened by their horrific treatment. One of the stories was "Naming" and the different terms they used to categorize intellectual disabilities. I could not hold back the tears for how a child like my son would have been viewed, as an "Imbecile" and considered a danger to society. Yes this was back in 1924 but that isn't really that long ago in the grand scheme of things. That was only 94 years ago, think about the age of our grandparents and how some were born then or lived during those times. That is not that long ago.
Thankfully we have come along ways and Rights of People with Disabilities is now included in the declaration. But this was only included in the 1970's after activists lobbied to make sure discrimination was prohibited. Step in the right direction, but again that was only around 45 years ago. Today, families fight for support for their loved ones to get diagnosis and therapies. Which if you think about it, is quite the change from 94 years ago. We have gone from locking people into asylums because of fear and misunderstanding to today, where we as parents have rights to get intervention, therapy and support for our children. This is fantastic, and I am very grateful our family was able to get help and support for our son at such an early age, as I know this is not the case for many families.
But I can't help and wonder, can we be doing better. Can we do more?
I am very grateful for my upbringing in that inclusion and acceptance was just "normal" to me as my grandmother was blind. She started losing her vision as a teenager, and she was later diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa. This caused her to gradually loose her sight and she was legally blind in early motherhood. I always knew my grandmother was visually impaired, but I never thought it was weird or was uncomfortable. I saw her as my grandmother who was fiercely independent and stubborn. She accomplished so much in her life, and one of those roles was advocacy. Little did I know that growing up watching her take on the world and showing them undoubtedly she could do just about anything, was really preparing me for motherhood and the very important role of advocacy for my son but also for all children.
For me, I see my role as an advocate for children. To support, accept, understand, and most importantly love. I will never stop helping others hear children's voices and the many different ways they communicate their needs. Our son is helping me be a better person.
I am a mom to an amazing young son who was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder at the age of 2.5 years old. This blog is about the journey we have travelled as a family to discover how our son communicates and to be a happy child in a world that doesn't quite feel right to him. I am an Early Childhood Educator and I use my passion of play and individual needs to support our son to live a joyous and happy life.