This refers to Germany, I hope things are handled better in other parts of the world!
We don’t have children, but my sister-in-law is expecting her first child in August/September. Somehow I found myself reading blogs about the integration of disabled children in the last weeks. To sum it up, integrating a child with special needs is very difficult in Germany, despite the fact that there are laws that should help with that. The pressure to adapt to the mainstream society is very high.
The discussion starts with prenatal screening. Yes or no, which kind of testing should be done… I remember when my friend was pregnant with her daughter, ten years ago. My friend was by no means a young mother, with of course can cause problems. Her colleagues (women, all of them mothers) took it for granted that she would have an abortion, should the tests reveal any disabilities. For my friend, there was only one reason to abort the pregnancy: If the child would not be able to live on its own.
Few support the opinion that a life with disability can be a good life. And those who do often met disabled people and saw for themselves that joy of life doesn’t discriminate. One of the colleagues who opted for abortion suffered a stroke one year later. She had to stop working and now is very limited in her everyday life. I can’t ask her if the kind of life she has now is still as worth living as it was before. It is a fact that most disabilities develop later in life – life is always life-threatening.
I notice that disabled persons more and more are pushed to the fringes of society. Possibilities of integration in school and work life become less.
Being a disabled person myself, this makes me worry. My life was never easy, but I had an have fun. I never had an empty or meaningless life. Of course I need help from my non-disabled enviroment. But this should be a given, because everyone can become disabled.
Raising a disabled child these days causes many struggles and justifications. I don’t know if I would be strong enough for this, I wish nobody had to go through this. I am very doubtful our society will leave this path of exclusion. But I still have hope, against all reason.