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A Disability is Only a Difference

by Kimberly on July 22, 2010 · 6 comments

I am speechless.

As a mother and as a therapist…speechless.

And not the good kind.

I read this story in the Kansas City Star yesterday. It’s about a couple in the area who gave birth to a baby girl (“M”) two months ago. The baby girl was perfect, healthy, and strong.

The parents were excited and full of love for this little tiny thing…as most parents are. They had the carseat, the baby clothes, the crib waiting at home. But they never got to take her home.


Because they are both blind.

I’m not kidding. These new parents were not allowed to take their infant daughter home because they are blind. According to the paper, the mother was learning to breastfeed her child. As a mother myself who nursed two child, I can attest–it’s a big learning curve. It’s not easy. According to the paper:

Questions arose within hours of M’s birth, after (mom’s) clumsy first attempts at breast-feeding — something many new mothers experience.

A lactation nurse noticed that M’s nostrils were covered by mom’s breast. Mom felt that something was wrong and switched her baby to her other side, bu not before M turned blue.

This prompted the nurse to report that “The child is without proper custody, support or care due to both of parents being blind and they do not have specialized training to assist them.”

This report then started a cascade of state processes…including a visit from a state social worker who determined that the parents were not fit to care for their child.

Because they are blind.

In my professional opinion, that social worker should be ashamed. And fired. It’s Therapy 101 to know that a disability only means a difference. It does not automatically mean a person can’t do something. It just means they may need a little extra (or a little different) support and learning than others.

It is incredibly sad to me that we are still dealing with these sort of discriminatory issues. That people (and especially professionals!) assume that because a person is different, they can’t do what others can.

Instead, we should try to figure out how we can help make them a success. It’s our job as therapists (and, yes, a social worker is a therapist) to help find ways for people to be successful. Whether it’s helping teach a child with autism to communicate or helping someone who’s had a stroke re-learn to walk again, it’s our task to help them find ways to meet those goals and be successful.

Being blind does not make these parents incapable of caring for their daughter. If this mother was struggling learning how to nurse (as EVERY mother who nurses does), then maybe she needed a little extra time and help to do it right.

Instead of being denied this beautiful opportunity to bond and care for her child. Those parents will never get that back.


{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Natalie July 22, 2010 at 10:36 am

I read this when you posted it yesterday and just couldn’t even think of how they could’ve let that process take place. There are so many people to blame in that situation.

Daniel Tague July 22, 2010 at 5:57 pm

Hi Kimberly,

Thank you for bringing this case to everyones attention. I can’t figure out how there was not already a plan in place and a support system already set up for the birth. What did everyone do for 9 mos? Did they keep the pregnancy a secret? Did the OB/GYN not try to help the parents make some arrangements? I think there is obviously going to have to be some help provided to these parents. It is hard enough to care for a newborn when you can see and hear that there is a problem, but I can’t imagine not being able to see and figure out what is wrong at any given time. I am just trying to think how you would cut their little nails so they don’t scratch their faces! That was very scary for us to cut our daughter’s nails without taking off some finger too! Anyway, the situation just sounds so strange with this couple, like we don’t know the whole story. I hope that they are able to figure out how to keep the family together. Please let us know if you hear any follow-ups to the story!

Thank you!

.-= Daniel Tague´s last blog ..Therapy in the Psychiatric Hospital- Music for the Mind- Body and Soul =-.

Kimberly August 3, 2010 at 7:59 am

Hi Daniel–you bring up some excellent points about other support systems and networks that may have fallen through the cracks. Other family, doctors, nurses, etc. If I hear any follow-ups, I will let you know. ~Kimberly

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