Blog Bonus: Excuse Me, Princess! What Entitlement Is in Disability World–and What It’s Not

Hello, readers,

That’s right–ding-ding-ding! Today you get a bonus round! I’d like to thank my friend J. for giving me the idea for this post. I’d also like to thank the bloggers at Smockity Frocks, a blog dedicated to large families, homeschooling, Christianity, and more.

Smockity Frocks recently posted a list called 25 Ways to Teach Your Children an Attitude of Entitlement. These were not aimed specifically at parents of children with or without disabilities. A lot of the tongue-in-cheek tips apply to every kid and parent. You know, like “Give your child a present on someone else’s birthday” because otherwise, he or she will feel left out. (I tried asking for a present at my little brother’s birthday once because I had seen my mother’s friend do it for her kids. I was told in no uncertain terms that this was not gonna happen). Or, “Make your child a special meal if he doesn’t like what the rest of the family is eating.” I confess–guilty. My mom was a picky eater too as a kid, so she often let me and my brother eat alternative things if we didn’t like what was served. But my dad didn’t go for that.

But even though all these “tips” can apply to all kids, I saw some that could apply more to kids with disabilities because their parents might treat them differently. And by that, I don’t mean, giving them the modifications they need. I don’t mean, treating them differently from siblings because every kid is an individual. After all, you wouldn’t give George glasses just because his little sister Karen had them, if George’s vision was 20-20, now would you?

By “differently” I mean an attitude that says, “Disability comes first. My child is pitiable because of it and can’t be expected to act like any other kid. My child cannot be held to any real responsibilities.” As it has been said, No responsibility = no real life.

But then I realized that on the other side of the coin are people who scream, “Entitlement!” whenever the PWD is given any latitude at all, or any particular help that the temporarily able-bodied population can’t access and in fairness, should not access. These are people who claim PWDs shouldn’t have SSI because it’s “living off the government.” It’s teachers who claim that, “Yes, Melissa has dyslexia, but she shouldn’t be read aloud to during tests–that’s an entitlement and unfair to the other kids.” It’s county social workers who claim adults with disabilities are “entitled” to group home placement, but not to lives of their own. That’s being “uppity” and “entitled.”

Double standard much?

So what is entitlement? What’s not? When do we give latitude, and when do we good-naturedly say, “Excuse me, princess?”

Let’s go back to Smockity Frocks. I’ll borrow some of their top 25 ways to teach entitlement and analyze from a disability perspective.

1. “Don’t make them clean up their own messes.”

It’s entitlement if: You pick up the toys your child is capable of picking up, with modifications. You lessen the cleanup or other chore to a ridiculous degree. You make siblings clean up the PWD’s share of the toys (or whatever the mess is, once they get older).

It’s not if: The PWD legitimately needs help with high shelves, heavy objects, and so on. The PWD teams up with others to clean. You offer help after watching the person struggle.

2. “Take their side no matter what, even if they’re being called out for a disciplinary issue.”

It’s entitlement if: There is a legit problem. If Adam hits a classmate for taking too many crayons, he should be disciplined. If Brenna constantly refuses to do work, with no disability-related issues present, the discipline issue is legit.

It’s not if: Modifications are being called “entitlement” in any way. Your child is being bullied by a teacher or administrator because of disability. A legit concern of your child’s is being branded as a behavior problem. Legit voicing of opinions in a respectful manner is being called uppity or disrespectful.

3. “Don’t make them serve others or wait to be served.”

It’s entitlement if: Waiting is the expected polite behavior, like in a restaurant, disability or not. Your child or loved one can see and respond to the need. For example, just because a kid has a cognitive disability, it doesn’t mean he or she can’t be taught the value of donating toys and books. Your child expects to be served at the expense of others who’ve been waiting longer or have more pressing needs.

It’s not if: The need is too big or would be unsafe for your loved one to meet (example, going to the Third World is often unsafe for PWDs because accessibility laws are nonexistent or minimal). Your child or loved one is in a place where disabilities must take priority, like on a bus with priority seating. Your loved one is being discriminated against through a waiting period that would not exist if disability were not present.

These are just a few examples. Let’s keep them in mind, and be careful how we use the E word.


1 Comment

  1. Interesting discussion. I admit, number 2 is a tough one for me, since “discipline” seems to often be misused in a way that can fall heavily on children with (primarily cognitive) disabilities. For example, children with certain disorders or disabilities may have a harder time sitting still or knowing when to remain silent or understanding the social cues around them. To other adults, this might seem disruptive and is often treated as rebelliousness or defiance. “Discipline” then becomes a way to punish a child for their disability, which I think is tragic, and all too common.

    I think that helping children find safe places and environments and being understanding of their limitations (and this goes for children with and without disabilities) is much more important than discipline. Helping a child proactively find ways to manage his/her behaviors and seeking environments that promote that child’s success I think is better than punishment (again, for children with or without disabilities). This just has the added perk that children are not punished for having a disability. What do you think?

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