Today is Constitution Day. Today on this date in 1787, our government and way of life was codified into law.Today is the day that many say WE as the PEOPLE of the United States of America truely came into being. So in honor of Constitution Day some thoughts about what it means for our autistic children.
WE THE PEOPLE those are the most important words in the history of human government. It is the acknowledgement that the power to govern flows not from an annointed monarch but from the people themselves. That it is up to the people to create their government and it is the right of the people to change that government whenever it stops being representative. That these "blessings" were bestowed by our founding fathers upon not themselves but their posterity. It is a gift they gave to their children and their children’s children, and their children’s children. That the acknowledged purpose of the Consitution is to protect the weakest and most unrepresented among us and to ensure that all persons within the boarders of the United States are granted the rights enshrined in the Bill of Rights now so taken for granted by so many.
Our children are among that population that are the weakest, most abandoned, ignored , abused and denigrated at times by society. For generations they were housed away in an attic, and later placed in asylum hellholes like Willowbrook Institution. They were shunned by society because of their strangeness and shunned because noone cared to understand them. We as the parents of autistic children were seen, especially the mothers, as having been the cause of our children’s misfortune, so the horrible secret was hidden behind closed doors for fear of loosing the rest of our families. There was no life, liberty, or pursuit of happiness. Only ridicule, shame and hate.
Now the Consitution was not perfect, as seen by the many amendments , especially the first ten added immediately (The Bill of RIghts) at the Consittutional Convention. Furthermore, the Consitution still left many disenfranchised, whether they were women or African-Americans. Special laws had to be passed inorder to ensure that these classes of person were no longer seen as mere chattel, but person with full rights under law. However, disabled persons were not seen as a needy/protected class. In fact it is only in recent history, since the passage of the Individuals with Disabilites Education Act and the Americans with Disabilties Act that our chidren were granted even the right to go to school., And while these laws are mere laws not Amendments to the Consitution they are significant in their embrace of what is morally right and an acknowledgement of what society still needs to accomplish on behalf of the disabled.
No, these laws are not perfect. I believe anything human-made will never be, for humanity in and of itself is not perfect, but the beauty of our Consittution is that we are allowed to keep trying and to keep growing as a people. That we as a nation are prepared to reassess who we are and reassess what we can become. That the importance of these laws, the IDEA and the ADA, are not their imperfections but that they are a beginning to an understanding of who our children are and who they are entitled to become. That the implementations of these laws allowed my children to get the education, therapies and supports that enable them to choose any life they want for themselves. A life choice so long denied to a person living with a disability. That these laws require that society include those with disabilities and provide those with disabilites the respect to which all humanbeings are entitled.
So on this Constitution Day I wish to thank the founding fathers for their vision. They saw an imperfect people and knew that we had it in us to evolve into something better than ourselves. That the day would come when society would redress itself, and understand that while we have along way to go to help the most vulerable among us, we are capable of taking that first giant step forward because WE THE PEOPLE know we should.
Until next time,