Spectrummy Mummy

Asperger's, Allergies, and Adventures Abroad

Turning Visible

with 23 comments

Dear Editors,

I don’t have a lot of time to read, but I do spend a lot of time in waiting rooms.  Too much time in waiting rooms, actually.  I see all kinds of parents like me in there.  Stay-at-home mothers and fathers, ones who go out to work, ones who work at home, parents of multiples, parents of adopted children, parents of only children, parents of lots of children, expat parents, gay parents, ones who married their childhood sweetheart, single parents, divorced and remarried parents, mixed culture and multiracial parents.  I’m a special needs mother, you see.  We’re all different.

We think differently too.  We can be a contentious group.  Sometimes we feel so passionately about something that we drown each other out.  The powerful voices which get heard are not necessarily the most accurate.  Day in, day out, we witness our children struggling, and we forget that there are other kids struggling in different ways.  We scour books, magazines, and the internet for the information we are looking for, but forget to take in another account.

So I understand, I do, that it is hard to speak to us.  I get that when you try to print information, it becomes a debate.  If you focus on one disability, it excludes others.  You choose a celebrity spokesperson for the cause, and ordinary special needs parents can’t relate, or disagree with their stance.  You find medical experts to write on the subject, and still we complain.  What does a doctor know about our lives?  The clinical analysis of the doctor and the parent’s loving description of their child are completely at odds.  And parents change too.  Perhaps what seemed to be insurmountable barriers at first later become hurdles to be leaped.

You’ll never get us to all agree about what you should be publishing, so save yourself the hassle.  Continue to ignore the issues, and save yourself the backlash.

But there is something I think we all manage to agree on: we’re invisible.  We can’t see ourselves, or our kids in the media.  It isn’t just our children who feel marginalized and excluded.  When you don’t cover special needs issues in your magazine, you send the message that we don’t matter.  It creates a barrier between parents of typically developing children and those whose children are developing differently.  If you’re the parent of a special needs child, you want other children to understand and respect those differences.

And if you’re a parent of a child who is typically developing, you want your children to understand and respect those differences.  Because now more than ever, your children will spend time with ours.  They’re in the same classrooms, playgrounds, communities, and increasingly, the same families.  We are friends and relatives, and we need to know we matter.

I urge you to dedicate a section of your magazine each week to the special needs community.  There are many different parents raising kids with all different kinds of disabilities.  Let us see them.  Hear our voices.  Present a platform that represents every parent, every reader.  If your magazine, or part of your magazine discusses parenting, it is your duty to write about all kinds of children, and all kinds of parents.

The father whose child isn’t able to sit up by herself at one year old wants to see himself when reading your magazine.  The mother who can’t manage to take a shower because her children need to be watched constantly needs to see know she isn’t on her own.  The grandparents who have never met anyone but their grandchild using a G-tube want to know there are others out there too.  The mother who doesn’t understand why her toddler can’t say mama, let her read possible reasons in your magazine so that she might discuss them with her pediatrician.

When I read your magazine, I feel ignored and invisible, but I’m lucky enough to know that I’m not alone.  You have it in your power to make all of us turn visible.  Let us see ourselves in your pages.

Yours Faithfully,

Just another special needs parent.

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Written by Spectrummy Mummy

June 2, 2011 at 7:26 am

23 Responses

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  1. Well said! I won’t even touch any type of parenting magazine when I’m in a waiting room.

    Christine Zorn

    June 2, 2011 at 7:53 am

  2. Bravo!

    Nomads By Nature

    June 2, 2011 at 8:00 am

  3. I think perhaps they should just put out copies of your blog and those of the other many beautiful bloggers in this community!! I think that would be a great idea – I would definately read it!

    Joeysmommy

    June 2, 2011 at 8:10 am

  4. Brilliant!

    Fi (Wonderfully Wired Mum)

    June 2, 2011 at 8:11 am

  5. YAY! So…give me the list of the magazines you’re sending it too :) Let’s tweet away!

    akbutler

    June 2, 2011 at 10:04 am

  6. Imagine what a difference this could make. *sigh* The key is to help them see that we could not only be a target demographic for readership but also for ad revenues…THEN they might consider helping us remove that cloak of invisibility!

    Niksmom

    June 2, 2011 at 11:04 am

  7. Wow that is one great letter. You wrote it with such “inclusion”….it is very powerful. You did not alienate, but put out a hand for the editors and readers to take hold. Maybe if there was a “Hopeful Parent” section in every issue of a parent magazine. Again, beautiful job!!

    cheairs

    June 2, 2011 at 12:35 pm

  8. Thank you for writing this. I’m so darned tired of being invisible. And I’m so darned tired of having to explain and explain and explain about our life, about our particular circumstances to everyone on the planet to build their awareness. How I would love to share an article with my loved ones from someone else’s view in someone else’s words. Oh. *sigh* Your piece is very powerful, and as Cheairs wrote, incredibly inclusionary in practice. I love it and I thank you for sharing it.

    Aimee Velazquez

    June 2, 2011 at 12:47 pm

  9. Yes, yes, yes. Imagine if a parenting magazine devoted one page every month to special needs issues. Think of how much could be discussed and learned.

    Stimey

    June 2, 2011 at 1:06 pm

  10. This is wonderful. I hope you’re submitting this to the editors of the major parenting magazines.

    I know I, and many, many more of us, would be willing to sign on to support this.

    Jennie B

    June 2, 2011 at 2:17 pm

  11. Amen!!!

    Lizbeth

    June 2, 2011 at 4:02 pm

  12. I long ago canceled all parenting magazine subscriptions. To me, they are all about fear-mongering and selling fancy-pants baby clothes…however, if they included real articles about real people…might be worth reading!

    Jen

    June 2, 2011 at 4:07 pm

  13. well said!

    rhemashope

    June 2, 2011 at 9:00 pm

  14. I’ve also stopped reading womens magazines because they just don’t relate to my life any more. But rather than have a special needs section, wouldn’t also be good if families with special needs were just included throughout the media and not hived off into a special section. Say an article about changing nappies could give also give advice on making it easier when your child has cerebral palsy, or when writing about fussy eaters you could also include tips for children with autism. It works both ways: I was talking to a family worried about making a trip with their young child and I suggested writing a social story and they thought it was a brilliant idea :)

    Blue Sky

    June 3, 2011 at 12:31 pm

    • I do believe that where possible an article should be as inclusive, but often the experience of a special needs child in a given situation is so different from one who is typically developing, that we merit a more thorough understanding. I agree with social stories- they can and should be used to help any parent explain things in a different way to their child. Honestly, there are many ways in which our parenting experiences have helped us to develop or hone techniques that all children would benefit from, and that is yet another reason for us to be included in those magazines. I think editors underestimate parents and what they want to read about- we have a lot to learn from each other. :)

      Spectrummy Mummy

      June 6, 2011 at 7:16 am

  15. Well written and well rounded! It’s very true that two separately developing peer groups will be growing up together, living and working together. I do hope magazines and other media take your voice into account when planning their upcoming issues!

  16. Well done.

    Big Daddy

    June 3, 2011 at 1:57 pm

  17. […] a comment » So what I didn’t tell you when I wrote my letter to editors last week, was that it wasn’t the first time I’d tried to get magazines to address […]

  18. I have a different take on reading in the waiting room…I NEVER have time to sit down and read any other time, so I use my time waiting to catch up on magazines such as Time or Newsweek. (I also rarely have time to listen to the news!)
    As for articles regarding children with disabilities, I agree wholeheartedly. It is especially annoying when there is an article that paints a rosy picture with the parent as a saint and the child cute and smiling. How many of our children smile all the time? Life is life, we are not saints, and our children are not always happy.

    Lindsey Petersen

    June 8, 2011 at 11:20 pm

  19. Sorry…I entered the wrong website address…I’m new to this blogging thing…

    Lindsey Petersen

    June 8, 2011 at 11:22 pm

  20. […] By June I was having Flashbacks, which means it must be getting close to moving time.  I said I’m sorry- I’m thinking of having this made into a form so I can quickly email it out in future.  I became a realist, and developed a whole new vocabulary at The SPD Blogger Network.  Most of all, I wondered why my family was so invisible. […]


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