Yo soy La Lay

adventures in family, faith, and Down syndrome

Lesson #21: Unintentional Ableism

on October 21, 2014

Ableism – a set of practices and beliefs that assign inferior value (worth) to people who have developmental, emotional, physical or psychiatric disabilities.

We would love to see Tessa break down barriers, exceed expectations, go beyond anyone’s wildest predictions of what she will accomplish in her lifetime.  John and I have no preconceived notions for what she will do with her life. Full inclusion through high school?  Why not?  Go to college?  OK!  Open a restaurant like Tim’s Place?  Dandy!  Star in a TV show like Glee?  Great!  We set no limits on her potential and watch to see what happens.  Hopefully, that is a powerful force in her life that pushes her to do her best.

She might not do any of those things.

The reality of our future with Tessa (and with any child, really) is that we have no way to predict what will come as she grows.  It is certainly our responsibility, as parents, to teach our children to live to their full potential.  However, we cannot pass judgement on what that potential is.

There is still value in the life of an adult who bags groceries at the local supermarket.

There is still value in the life of an adult who lives with his parents and takes public transportation to a minimum-wage job.

There is still value in the life of an adult who “makes your french fries.”

(On a side note, I just need to vent for one second about the statement “well, someone has to make my fries.” There is nothing wrong with making french fries.  And yes, someone really does have to make them for you unless you plan on climbing into the drive-thru window at McDonald’s and making them yourself.  So why do we need to use this as a sarcastic comment to mock a person’s intellectual ability?  Just wondering.)

Being successful has nothing to do with money.  It has nothing to do with power.  It has nothing to do with influence or intelligence or ability or stuff.  It has everything to do with abounding love, kindness to the most unkind people, friendship, compassion, and contributing in the best way that one can.

I get that now.


This is part of the 31 for 21 Blog Challenge!


4 responses to “Lesson #21: Unintentional Ableism

  1. Oneinamillion says:

    It’s kind of a catch 22 isn’t in some ways. I struggle a bit with this. Like I have accepted that my Peanut will not have a life like mine. And in a way I have dropped all my expectations, which is very freeing. But I don’t want to have no expectations for her. I want the best for her and for her potential. But have no idea what the scope of that will be!

    • Maggie says:

      That’s exactly it! I want her to live to her potential… and I want to be (and I want others to be!) content with whatever that potential is. It’s the same with Ellie, but everything get magnified when it comes to Tessa.

      • Oneinamillion says:

        It’s such a hard balance. When I tell people I have no expectations it feels wrong, beecause I know people rise to meet high expectations. It’s just that I don’t want the Peanut or me to feel like we fail if we don’t meet unrealistic expectations. It would be nice if someone could look into the future and tell me what to expect!

  2. […] was talking to a friend, Maggie, at her blog Yo Soy La Lay. Maggie had written a post on Unintentional Ableism where she mused on her daughter Tessa’s potential and abilities and the difficulty of having […]

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