Disability Inclusion 4: The Parents

wheelchair game.jpgOver the next few days I’m going to be posting more about disability inclusion, looking from three different perspectives: The parents, the young people and the youth leader. It’s taken a while to do because some of this stuff is painfully close to home for me and also because I didn’t want to assume my experience (and that of H) was normative. I’ve been very fortunate though that Will, from a wonderful organisation called PALS, has provided significant and substantial input. I’m hoping that these pieces with the addition of comments from other practitioners, will be a useful resource:

The Parents:

There is a fear of leaving their child with someone they don’t know very well. For a lot of the kids they have never been anywhere except school without their parents so the parents are unsure whether the leader will know how to look after their child.
It means the world to parents to see their child accepted, valued and known for who they are.
Parents worry that their child won’t fit in and often get embarrassed about some of the things that their child can’t do that their able bodied peers may be able to do with ease.
There are often two extremes of parents. Those that think their child is unable to do anything on their own and will need someone to do everything for them, and those who won’t admit that they do have some needs. (There are also parents in the middle)
Some parents don’t want them attending mainstream activities as they feel they can only mix with people with disabilities. And some want them attending only mainstream activities so that they don’t live their life as a ‘professional disabled’ person. Actually a mixture of the two is needed. They do need times with people with other disabilities as it’s a great chance to practice skills in a safe environment and many realise they are not the only ones with needs and sometimes they might need to help others. At the same time they do need to mix with their able bodied peers because most of the people they will meet in their life won’t have a disability.
It’s VERY important to talk, listen and discuss with parents BUT that doesn’t mean it’s not vital to listen to the young person. Many parents get into the habit of talking for their child. A youth group can be a fantastic place for them to grow, learn and explore who they are (in the same way as an able bodied young person).
Parents are usually happy to negotiate and discuss to find ways of making activities work and recognizing that some are not suitable.