Several years ago I wrote:-
There is much written at the moment about the Children, Schools and Families Bill, Child Protection and parenting choices. What most of you reading this or any other Blog today might be unaware of is the potential impact across all society that this Bill might have had if passed (and still might have if Labour are re-elected and have a second attempt) which extends beyond how you choose to educate your children. It challenges something totally fundamental in our society. Not only does it challenge the right parents currently have to choose how their child is educated but introduces an unpalatable advance of the erosion of individual choice and independence to be and live as we choose.
The CSF Bill which has largely been dropped due to pressure from Home Educators who not only objected to State interference in their right to educate their children as they see fit but also pointed out the obvious - that a HE child is no more or less "at risk" than any other school educated child, all of whom have long periods of time at home. The unfortunate Khyra Ishak was indeed deregistered from mainstream schooling but was not, by any stretch of the imagination Home Educated. But suspicion is the child of ignorance and choosing a path for your family which is in any way different from the vast majority should not leave you open to prejudice. Yet Ed Balls has stated he fully intends to "provide proper protection to home educated children" if Labour are re-elected.There is a veritable industry that exists to "safeguard children" now which must therefore justify its existence on a daily basis. So deep is the desire to prove themselves at every level this "protection" system is trapped looking for cases and fitting individuals into their preconceived moulds. There is no room for uniqueness, for unorthodoxy, God forbid you do not choose to or are unable to tend towards the mean. This offers up a perfect opportunity to convert misunderstanding into accusation.
This is a constant battle fought by parents of disabled children, those with mental health issues and those with invisible disabilities. So vast and complicated is the framework in which support is or is not available that if there is not an immediately visible, convenient niche in which to slot your family (either inside or outside that framework) then you invite suspicion and intervention. Instead of training health professionals, social workers and other front line workers to respond to individuals on a case-by-case basis we are trapped in a system where government frameworks and policies constrain free, rational thinking and financial accountability has been stretched to require self justification at every level. In our case we have a very able, but clearly autistic child who does not fit the mould of expected outcomes for education and behaviour management. Consternation and lack of alternatives precipitated enquiry and accusation because there wasn't a tick box for our family.
April is Autism Awareness month. But being aware is sometimes not enough. We need to be aware, and familiar with difference. Because familiarity banishes fear and misunderstanding, from which grows prejudice. The Disability Discrimination Act of 2010 defines disability but does not familiarise disability. As a species we seek familiarity and sameness, and are naturally suspicious of difference, but this does not have to define us.
The modern world needs to learn to celebrate individuality, in a current time frame rather than persecuting those with something unique to offer society. We are taught to recognise and remember those who were "different" in history and we are learning, slowly, to recognise apparent "deviations" from the norm when faced with large groups. Religious toleration, racial and social acceptance are goals many aspire to if not reach but still, in the twenty first century it is still socially and politically acceptable to seek and root out, to stigmatise, persecute and victimise that which is unfamiliar and alien. It seems we have learned little and increasingly offer ourselves up to be judged by supporting continued and increasing State intervention in our lives. Without individuals and individual ways of living we might just as well enter a Brave New World and admit defeat of the very essence of being human.
It's time to change.