Where more social justice is needed

Each week, Symposium Magazine invites an author to guest-blog. This week’s featured piece is Being ‘Different’ in a High-Achieving World by Allison Stevens. She reviewed “Raising Henry,” an account by a Columbia professor of raising a child with Down syndrome.

This post continues my interview with Professor Michael Bérubé of Pennsylvania State University, who authored “Life as We Know It,” another account of parenting a child with Down syndrome. Rachel Adams, author of “Raising Henry,” cited his work as a source of strength and inspiration.

Yesterday, you talked about the some of the unique benefits of being in academia when faced with this challenge. What about the challenges?

Well, Rachel Adams nails it when she writes, “Babies like Henry simply aren’t born to successful, over-educated parents like us.” It’s not as bad as Martha Beck made it out to be in “Expecting Adam” — a book that slams her Harvard cohort and mentors while mentioning Harvard in every third sentence (conflicted much?)

But it’s clearly a place where lots of people put a premium on intelligence, and tend to think of intellectual disability in terms of all the things a child will never be able to do, especially if they happen to be wrong about those things. That said, our academic colleagues have always been warm, welcoming, and wonderful about Jamie, and it helps that Jamie’s social skills are so strong.

What kind of solutions would you recommend to eliminate barriers to parents in academia, and especially parents of children with disabilities?

Family leave, of course. On-campus day care, and provision for children with special needs. It really isn’t rocket science. It’s just social justice, which is much more complicated.

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