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Ableism by Myotonic Dystrophy Expert Ann S Woodbury

When I graduated from college in 1980 (yes, I’m old) I graduated with a degree in the college of Social and Behavioral Science. I didn’t realize it at the time but I recently realized that all of my education was taught through the view of Ableism (discrimination in favor of able-bodied people.) With my degree that emphasized Child and Family relationships, I thought that I was prepared to be the best mom ever. Then I started having a family. As my children grew and we faced difficulties I was totally unprepared. My background had taught me to pay attention to typical milestones of “normal” child development. Sometimes my children didn’t fall into these normal milestones but since I could tell that my children were trying their best I decided to not focus on these. In fact, I just ignored my textbooks. It wasn’t until my third child, Michael, was followed every six months by a government program “Children with Special Health Care Needs” was I made aware of the fact that he wasn’t meeting his normal milestones. Michael didn’t walk until he was 14 months old which was 2 months later than the average but they informed me that it was still close enough so not to be worried. When, at 2 ½ years of age Michael couldn’t talk I didn’t worry about it because he was very interactive and trying. It wasn’t until an acquaintance that was also a school teacher told me that she thought that he was talking but couldn’t say the hard consonants that I sought help. Sure enough, after evaluation, he had a normal vocabulary but he wasn’t able to pronounce the consonants that make words intelligible. Michael was provided with a speech therapist that came to our home and brought activities for him to do to teach him how to pronounce the sounds that he wasn’t making. To my awareness there were no questions asked as to why he wasn’t making these sounds. This started our journey with speech therapy for Michael for the next 20+ years. My children were atypical but also typical. They played with the neighbor children, went to school and church and did what children normally do. But, they also had difficulties. My oldest, Warren, didn’t like school and he seemed to not be compliant. When he was confronted by school and church leaders to conform he would act out. He talked a lot and seemed to challenge authority. Warren got angry easily. He was extremely bright and could easily learn things. He got good grades and took first place in a Geography Bee in 7th grade. But he hated getting out the door for school and we were both usually frustrated by the time that he got to school. Because I had only been educated about children that were normal I figured that there was something that I was doing wrong. I took parenting classes and read a lot trying to adjust the way that I responded to Warren, never realizing that he would eventually be diagnosed with Aspberger’s. The Aspberger’s diagnosis didn’t happen until he was an adult. My youngest, Chad, never crawled. He scooted around on his back by arching his back and balancing with his head and pushing with his feet