After all our cleaning and culling and decluttering over the past little while, I was taking some things that we don’t need anymore to donate to the local women’s shelter.
H and I had already done some running around earlier in the day, and we had also been out picking blackberries… so I left him at home as he was clearly at capacity.
The round trip was about 15 minutes, and when I arrived home I could hear H talking to someone through his open bedroom window on my way up the front stairs. Of course, I immediately asked who he was talking to, and he briefly excused himself and explained that he was on the phone with Apple Support.
He was problem-solving and apparently getting some bugs worked out with his iTunes account or something on his computer.
I was surprised. I wanted to jump in.
But I resisted – and just listened instead – from the other room.
And wow, I am glad I did!
I love that H was able to get the help he needed and just took the initiative to deal with it himself.
It sounded like it was going well and that he was just winding up his call.
I heard him say, “Thank you – you were really helpful.”
Though, apparently, he was not quite done. He was still asking clarifying questions, checking his understanding, and getting the information he needed.
H said, “Thank you Scott,” as he completed his call, and then added to himself… “He was very helpful.”
Afterwards I nonchalantly queried, “Hey H, how did you know who to call?”
“I checked on my iTunes – the number was there.”
“Did you get the answers you needed?”
“Yes! But I need you to come over here to help me with something…”
I assisted H with recording and organizing some new password information he needed to log for future use.
Independence: it doesn’t mean not needing help… or accommodations… or support…
We all need that sometimes…
I could very easily end this post here, except that I am reflecting back to when I first attended IEP meetings for H – almost 10 years ago. The IEP table was suddenly flipped and I sat in a very different seat, now a parent of a child with special education needs – rather than the classroom teacher. I recall being cautioned by someone, “Be careful what you ask for… if you ask for independence as one of the goals for your child – you may find that needed support is pulled away…”
I logged this somewhere: “Okay – never ask for independence…”
But I have been looking deeper recently. I am unpacking independence and the ableism inherent in what I had unquestioningly accepted as a rather narrow definition: independence = not needing help.
I have been thinking long and hard about independence and the layered, inferred and multiple meanings behind it.
In my best vision of the world, it would be acknowledged that we are all dependent upon each other: interdependent. We all have strengths and weaknesses – and when we are given opportunity for our strengths to flourish – and support so that our weaknesses are lessened – we can be our best selves.
I know I have more unwinding to do around the concept of independence, and how there seems to exist a double standard around its meaning. There is a problem inherent in the fact that as a society, we seem to judge and use this word to marginalize and stigmatize.
I am noticing the existence of an unspoken hierarchy in independence and that certain dependencies carry less stigma – or none at all – whereas some dependencies are weighted in a way that devalues an individual.
I need to examine this more closely, and I invite you to leave your perspective on this post, if you feel so inclined.
I understand that I am not yet done with this: I have more perspectives to consider, more voices to listen to, more considering to be done, to help me redefine this term for myself in a way that is more useful and more honouring.
But for now I am thinking perhaps true independence is about knowing when and how to ask for the help we need and knowing who can assist us… and then making our own decisions…
It is self-determination!
What is Independence Anyway? by Amy Sequenzia (On the blog “We Are Like Your Child) and if you are interested in reading more from Amy, her blog is listed in the blogroll (over on the right) Non-speaking Autistic Speaking ♥ which contains links to her contributions on multiple sites and projects.
30 Days of Autism is a project designed to promote social understanding and offer a glimpse into the perspectives of those whose lives are touched by Autism.
©Leah Kelley, Thirty Days of Autism (2013)