I have been roaming around the internet in search of some advice. It has been a long and fruitless search, I can tell you. When I started this blog there was loads of it, all at my fingertips. I was overwhelmed (almost) with it all. Do this, do that, do the other. In the end I ignored most of it and went along my own merry way. All except one piece, that is. And, of course, that is the one I can’t find. It’s always the way.
The advice I am looking for was about children. Oh, not the parenting sort, there’s plenty of that. The writing sort – and I don’t mean how to get them to write their thank you letters (although that is worth a blog post, I must say; Joe Kirby wrote a very thought provoking post on the subject, and I fully intended to fire off my own thoughts upon the subject, but I got derailed, I will catch up with myself Joe, I promise – sort of). I mean the way that we write about children.
As someone who writes primarily about her own child, I took this advice very much on board. Every time I write about Sam I consider how he appears to the wider world. He has no say in what I write about him – these are my thoughts, not his – so I owe him a great deal of responsibility in the stories I choose to tell. I must bear in mind his dignity, his personhood; I must write nothing that would damage him, or put him in danger.
This would be a heavy responsibility were he a typically developing child. As it is, he is not. He finds himself growing up in within the statistical bounds of the vulnerable. I posted some stats yesterday that illustrate his position – I’m sure there are more, should I care to hunt them down. As a vulnerable child, one with SEND, with Down’s syndrome, I must bear those statistics in mind when I write. I must consider the sad fact that many, if not most people are afraid, and if not afraid then discomfited, by disability – and that it is in part this fear that contributes to the bleak outlook on his future, and the future for many children and young people like him.
As a teacher, I am bound by similar restrictions when I put my thoughts onto this page. Professionally I must write nothing that would bring my school into disrepute; but more than that, I am bound by bonds of care for the children I teach. They are part of my wider family, if you will. What I write here, should I choose to write about them, will have an impact.
I weigh my words carefully. Do you?