I assure you, at some point, every special need parent dreams that, just like Zootopia‘s Judy Hopps, “anyone can be anything.” We, too, yearn for a utopia where each life, in paricular our unique children, contribute to society and are accepted in every way. When the cute 4-foot tall bunny rabbit Judy decides she wants to join the ZPD (Zootopia Police Department), her parents, the Zootopia Police Academy, the world essentially tells her she doesn’t have the goods; she’s not large enough, strong enough, or foreboding enough to compete in a force comprised of predator rhinos, hippos, elephants, and buffalos. They tell her she is better suited to work on her parents’ carrot farm in Bunnyburrows, and shouldn’t aim too high so as to avoid disappointment.
Judy needs to work harder, study more vigilantly, go the extra mile to compete- and she does so with a vengeance. She graduates first in her class and becomes the first rabbit to ever make the force, only to find that her challenges are just beginning. Though this utopian city promises that big or small, predator or prey, you can be whatever you want to be, even this society has preconceived notions about what she can and can’t do. She is delegated to wear the orange vest of a meter maid and the citizens of Zootopia find her “cute.” What her boss, Chief Bogo, does not anticipate is that Judy’s distinctly rabbit traits of acute hearing and smell, nimbleness and diminutive size make her perfectly suited to crack the big unsolved mystery. This is exactly the case that the differently-abled community has been making for quite some time; our autistic children and young adults are wired in ways that lead them to problem-solve in atypical manners. A society that is inclusive of these underdogs benefits in the long run.
In my son’s case, he learned from a very young age that he needed to work harder than his counterparts. He started speaking at the age of four, and those delays trickled into cognitive thinking, reading, and socializing. By the time he graduated high school, “harder” meant receiving the Headmaster’s Award for Excellence. Not content with merely being accepted to an institution like Georgetown University, he “needed” to graduate summa cum laude with a double major. I must confess that I sometimes find myself telegraphing messages like Mr. and Mrs. Hopps; protecting him by telling him he’s done well enough and doesn’t need to continually put himself out there. It’s too scary- for me! And then I by chance catch a photo he is tagged in. Ten texts later I find that the Congressional interns from the leadership team held a Facebook chat and he was representing the Bipartisan Disablity Causcus.
Judy is correct that change does start within each of us. Shakira’s “Try Everything” is the just the reminder us special parents need. Watch out world; marginalize bunnies like my Devin at your own peril!!
Happy to link this post to #BloggersFete 2016 with my pal Maple Mouse Mama!!