By Jane Rossheim
Being a special needs parent colors how I see the world in strange ways. The subjects of Autism, inclusion, and disability rights are never far from my mind.
Recently, my daughter and I ventured out to our town’s new doughnut shop. As a loyal customer of this franchise establishment since childhood, nothing makes me quite as happy as seeing the fresh doughnuts working their way down the assembly line. The tasty treats undergo a marvelous journey taking the doughnut escalator up the tower, dropping into the sizzling oil, flipping at the halfway mark to reveal a lovely shade of brown, and finally heading straight toward the glorious waterfall of glazed sugar. They then wait patiently on the assembly line for employees to delicately pick them up with tongs and place them into designated boxes for expectant customers.
While witnessing this miracle of doughnut creation, I noticed that two glazed originals had somehow defied the system and fused together as one. I pointed this fact out to my daughter and declared that this doughnut has special needs. She proceeded to give me an eye roll, a patronizing three tap pat on the back, and then returned to drinking her iced coffee. Nevertheless, she and I watched with great interest what would happen to this particular doughnut. Would it earn placement in the colorful box beside all the others or would it perhaps be offered up for free to hungry onlookers? For a while it just sat on the assembly line and then, sadly, it was brushed into a large trash bin.
Well, you could hear an audible gasp from both me and my daughter when our special doughnut met its tragic end. I began making statements to her such as, “Did you see what happened to the special needs doughnut?” “Why would they do that?” “Isn’t it just as hot and tasty as the other doughnuts?” “Actually, you are getting more doughnut for your money because it is bigger!” “Why does the fact that it is not perfect mean it should be thrown away?”
I grant you that this is an extreme metaphor for disability rights; however, it feels like a valid comparison in my mind. My wish is that people will begin to look beyond perfection or the status quo to appreciate the merits of all people and doughnuts.
Will this experience stop me from going to this doughnut shop in the future? Absolutely not! However, if I am ever witness to an event like this again, I will be sure to use my voice and advocate for that special needs doughnut.
JCS provides a broad range of services that meet the diverse, multi-dimensional needs of individuals and families throughout Central Maryland. We offer guidance and support when you are seeking solutions for emotional well-being, aging and caregiving, parenting, job seeking, employers and businesses, achieving financial stability, living with special needs, and preventing risky behaviors. To learn more, please visit our home page or call 410-466-9200.
Jane Rossheim, Special Needs Program Coordinator, Jewish Community Center of Greater Baltimore