Guest Post by Angelique Marshall
For over 29 years I have been a mother of a child with intellectual disabilities. When I was told that my daughter had cerebral palsy, I knew there was so much I had to learn to assist in providing her with equal opportunities in the world. One main issue that remains for any individuals with intellectual disabilities is the difficulties that are presented when trying to communicate. Regardless of the variations in communication levels, I believe that more needs to be done to provide equitable environments that minimize any negative encounters.
When the COVID pandemic began, I was so worried about the mental state of my daughter and how I could try to explain to her that she needed to remain quarantined. My daughter loves playing outside, traveling and shopping so I knew there would be significant difficulties trying to keep her home for the quarantine period. It was a trying time but like any other parent, I made a way out of no way and made sure that my daughter continued to feel love, supported and heard during a time of uncertainty.
I cannot help but think about all the parents in my same circumstance that have children who need the extra support and attention from their teachers but are stuck in a virtual setting with no plausible solutions for how to move forward with proper accommodations in place to ensure that their mental health maintained during a period where interpersonal communication is limited. Even students without any intellectual disabilities are having issues with their mental health and navigating through and mostly online system for learning and building relationships. I have noticed in the news that certain places for entertainment such as Disney World, have denied individuals with intellectual disabilities for not abiding by the mask rules. My daughter hates wearing her mask and sometimes does not understand that she needs to have it on in stores and other regulated areas. What communication tactics or classes need to be in place for all citizens to understand that special accommodations need to be made for individuals with intellectual disabilities?
My daughter has been arrested before and handcuffed, and I have been dealing with patrons not understanding her all her life. It just saddens me that society has all of these technological developments but lack accommodations for individuals with intellectual disabilities. Why is that so? Am I not allowed to travel with my daughter because she is not able to understand that she has to wear a mask? Should I just leave her in the house and keep her secluded from the world because of the public’s inability to understand?
The answer is no! I will continue to fight for equity in society because it can be my daughter experiencing these issues at any given day. My hope for the future is more recognition and effort to gain better communication tactics and accommodations. It makes me cry every time I think about it but there have been so many fatal incidents where miscommunication happened because an officer did not have the proper training or understanding on intellectual disabilities and how that directly relates to the individual’s actions and how they communicate their feelings. Being in quarantine or social distancing is not as simple as just doing what the rules say. I’m sure there are more people that have endured the same issue and have attempted to spread information. I try to think about what the best way is to share my perspective to the public and really impact some type of change.
I can honestly say that I am not sure what to do because social media is very saturated in people who are in their own filter bubbles with constant that suits their current interest. My target audience is everyone, and I am on a journey to figure out how I can properly communicate the things need to change as soon as possible for individuals with intellectual disabilities. I know life issues and decisions don’t happen overnight, but I am so sure that new policies and practices can swiftly be put in place just simply based off of all of the new technologies that emerge daily. Maybe I’m too optimistic or I’m seeing the cup is way half full but, I will not lose hope and I will continue to fight for all the parents who have the same perspective as myself. I will be a voice to the voiceless until I am no longer able.