I just saw the film “Life, Animated.” It was spectacular. It captured the reality that this child faced as a result of his autism. He struggled in ways that no one could understand, until, through his passion for Disney animation, he could reveal his world. It was mind blowing. It made me deeply sad as I think about my own daughter, and the utter prison that school has always been for her. In the film, all the boy’s handlers find ways to accommodate to his individual need so that he could feel good about himself, and thrive.
But when you “just” have a learning disability, or you “just” have ADHD, then you are only accommodated a bit. It is expected that more predominantly, you, the disabled child, will conform to the model of the norm. Maybe they seat you in the front of the class, but you are still expected to basically learn like everyone else, who doesn’t have issues around reading, and writing.
As a result, Milly is trapped in a world where all that matters is school. All that matters after school is homework. And if you don’t do it, or don’t it on time, down goes the grade. And in the end, isn’t it all about the grade? What grade did you get? Are you making the grade? You are graded on a curve. How do you think you’d feel if you pretty much knew that you would always be the lower left side of the goddamned bell curve. She’s left to feel that she’s never caught up, always a step behind, and always letting deficit pile up on deficit – how utterly spiritually debilitating.
School and grades are the bane of her life, and yet there is no escape from the torture they put her through. When she is not burdened by a system that could not truly honor her, or provide her with more than a few pleasant moments, I have such hope that she will feel a release and relief. Without the constant scourge of unmet potential and labeling and feeling like a disappointment, who knows what flowers will bloom. If I could pull Milly out of school right now, I would. But she has to finish high school. One more year. I know that she sees me as one of the instruments of her oppression, but I hope she knows that I believe in her with all my heart. I want her to discover herself in ways that she alone will judge.