When our daughter was younger and not communicating verbally, there was a buzz of concern to act fast.
We were warned, again and again, of the consequences that come from leaving a child to develop at their own pace in a society that has a mandated one.
We tried speech therapy. And we were made aware that our daughter was informally signing. Together we learnt more and more signs and this was helpful, it opened up a line of communication we hadn’t previously had and there was less frustration for us all.
But she did not talk. The reality is that she was not yet in a position to no matter how many external forces wanted her to be or tried to condition the circumstances towards it.
The intervention suddenly switched gears; it was no longer about finding ways for us to connect but built upon a desire to disconnect our daughter from herself.
Amongst the alarm from those around us, we stopped.
The main reason for all the alarm? What would happen with school.
This loyalty to timelines often comes from a loyalty to an archaic system of education and the expectations it places on children. There’s a linear progression laid out for children and if you do not meet each step in the production line of a schooled human, then the next step isn’t going to fit; you’re branded defective and that is highly inconvenient for society.
I knew that this was not the truth we wanted to invest in.
It became clear very quickly that early intervention was not motivated by my daughter and her needs, it was focused on how to conform to a narrow perception of human existence.
It was less about creating an environment of accessibility and more about silencing her need for such.
Children deserve respect and autonomy, unconditionally and it felt as though we were being asked to have conditions. The reality is that external forces cannot change somebody, it instead censors them.
Her internal experience would remain the same but she might have felt compelled to alter her external expression because she would have been conditioned to believe them to be unacceptable. The basis for all behaviour modification.
I wanted to bring my daughter more access to the world, I did not want or need that to be at the cost of access to herself, her identity or her needs.
And I see this play out too often. People explaining that they are making a choice for their child’s benefit, that it is something they need despite in the same breathe explaining how they resist such measures and so control becomes necessary and it never quite makes sense to me; if they need it, if it helps them, why would force be required?
Do they really need it or does society demand it of them?
This urgency to conform doesn’t make sense if you remove expectations. And the urgency to conform does not help the person in question, it is just more convenient for the people around them.
I wanted my daughter to find more ease in her existence, she was frustrated but pushing her to present as somebody she is not? That’s not going to be any semblance of ease for her, for anyone. That’s going to make things feel that much more difficult.
What would bring ease? Acceptance. The radical belief that whoever she is, is worthwhile and deserves access to life without the forced responsibility to change. Finding the bridges between each of our experiences so that we could communicate was important, finding a way for my daughter to be something other than who she is? The opposite of important.
Early intervention silences. And all people deserve to live life loud.