I am traveling from Texas to Wisconsin presenting at conferences with daughter Linea on transition services and support for students with mental health conditions. I sat in and listened while she presented to a youth group. The adolescents were fabulous as usual. (See previous blog from last year's conference). These students shared their diagnoses of autism, Asperger Syndrome, PDD-NOS (yes, a student said he had that diagnosis!), cerebal palsy, depression, Down Syndrome and other disabilities. As they talked about stigma Linea asked them for examples of times they experienced this in their own young lives.
Some of their conversations from the discussion between the students and Linea:
"They just think I am a stuffed animal." "They think I am totally weird." "But you aren't weird." "People pick on me because I am in the special ed gym but they think I should be in the normal education gym." "I get hit." "They call me the r-word. I sometimes want to kill myself."
"We are normal kids with disabilities." "We can be brave." "We can say, "Please don't do that. You don't know what we have gone through."
It was hard for them to share their strengths but they did. They are all on Facebook. They are part of a youth movement spreading across the country through their stories, their bravery, their courage and technology. Watch out world, here they come. Ready to teach us all a thing or two.
My book, Perfect Chaos, co-authored with my daughter, was released May 2012 (St. Martin's Press). I am a professor in special education. I love new experiences and learning new things. I don't know if anyone is out there reading this except my family!