It is no wonder there is such heartache and trauma for disabled parents when attitudes such as the one in the article http://samedifference1.com/2009/11/24/why-people-with-learning-disabilities-shouldnt-have-children/ are expressed so freely and so commonly. One might as well say that racist parents should be sterilised because it would be ‘better for all concerned’ if the children did not grow up racist or with racist parents. In which case, my own sister who complained after her 12-week pregnancy scan that, ‘All the other women there were Paki’s’ might be considered unfit to have a child, She may not do that bad a job and she may even learn some manners and morals when it comes to the issue of racial stereotyping.
It is ironic that of the two of us, it is the sister with the Masters degree in Disability Studies, who babysat for local children as a teenager, the one who studied Child Development Studies at GCSE and gained numerous A* grades when these were still uncommon, and even a D pass at the subject she has a ‘learning disability’ in, might possibly do better than someone who would have to rely wholly on the skills of teachers with one degree and a years teacher training, because she herself did a degree that ranged far less widely and because she has a ‘learning dsability’ (dyslexia) which is not labelled as such.
Maybe a woman whose husband is also a professional trained to Masters level who went to one of the country’s top public schools and who is literate, articulate, financially , socially and emotionally responsible might be better fitted as a husband and father even to a wife with ‘learning disabilities’ who has supportive friends and contacts in every profession it is possible to get a higher degree in, than an over confident, charming yet sexually irresponsible young man whose reaction to a minor difficulty like a wife working long hours is to cast about for solace elsewhere.
Yes, I am somewhat emotionally damaged by a lifetime’s verbal abuse for perceived and actual differences, yes, holding down a full time job outside the home as well as managing motherhood, a brain tumour and cerebral palsy (C.P.) Freelance journalism jobs and disability activism work might be a challenge, yes perhaps I would not be a ‘perfect’ mother or teach my child Mathematics to the same extent that I could teach him or her French, Latin, Disability Studies, Shakespeare, or history. I could however give any child a moral grounding that avoids bigotry, teach basic cooking and housekeeping skills, make them aware of cultural developments that are wider than those found on the evening news. I could ensure that my child learns early that prejudice should never be tolerated, the beauties of the English language and the possibilities of faith and Christianity. I would teach him or her that it is not what a person costs the taxpayer that defines their true worth, nor what they do for a living, worthwhile and necessary as employment may be, but the depth of their humanity and their willingness to give everything up , even their life, to protect another human soul.
I would teach them as I was never taught until it was too late, that every man and woman’s worth and choices -if they must be measured by the standards of the culture he or she finds themselves in -should at least be measured equally against the choices of all other men and women in that culture. Whatever the apparent costs of ‘people with learning disabilities’ or indeed ANY disabilities we should genuinely ask if we are sure what we are walling out when we deny a person the right to a future. If the right to have children is measured by intelligence then we should closely measure all for ‘intelligence’, not merely set arbitrary markers such as ‘learning disability’ which may be misinterpreted and judged lifelong because it was a useful marker that ensured some extra help with fractions and gained a mother some sympathy for her daughters struggles in areas that she herself did not excell in. Despite the fact that one daughter lacks morals, depth of feeling and knowledge even of basic childcare and may struggle to manage with a boorish, narrow husband who may leave HER costing the state far more in child support, because ‘disability’ is a more emotive subject than simple ignorance,it is the masters student who is discouraged, disbarred, and degraded as unfit to be a mother and the narrow minded racist with a mind no more than common who will be hailed as mother of a new generation. What price support for intelligent ‘learning disabled’ women?