I’ve written before about the faith healing cult I was raised in. I’ve talked about the ways illness was treated as a symptom of sin. I haven’t written about the exceptions. My grandma/cult leader believed that acquired disabilities were judgments from God, or his way of communicating displeasure. But if someone was born blind or with Down Syndrome, well then that was how God made them.
This created a stark divided between disabilities that were ignored or punished, and those that were accepted or even accommodated. It also resulted in a community that had far more disabled children than adults. Through my grandmother I knew children with Down Syndrome and cerebral palsy, one blind girl, and several deaf kids.
My neighborhood, a short street lined with cinder block homes, had a higher than average number of disabled children too, with four such children across our twelve houses. There was an undersized teenage boy who would put away my bike if I left it out, only in his shed. Everyone understood this wasn’t meant as theft or malice, and his mom was always glad to let me take it back.
Growing up in this environment, I expected to have a disabled child. I didn’t simply allow for the possibility: it seemed more likely than not. I wasn’t sure if I would adopt one or birth one, but I was sure I would have a disabled child, and that I would love them. The alternatives never felt real to me.
As you probably know from reading this blog, I do have an autistic child. I was right. I don’t know how I was right. Maybe my skewed sample made me overestimate the odds. Maybe part of me recognized my family’s hereditary weirdness. I really can’t be certain. But I expected a disabled child, so having one didn’t come as a surprise. I suspect that’s made things easier for both of us, but have no clue howv to pass on those benefits to others, who did not grow up waiting for their disabled child.