Is the future for my Anglophone autistic son in Quebec a "cul-de-sac"?
"cul-de-sac: A street or passage closed at one end: A route or course leading nowhere." ~From Oxford Dictonary.
Never in a million years would I have imagined that politics would enter and affect the life of my autistic son. Sadly though, it has. Living in this province, I guess it was inevitable.
The language issue in Quebec has been a long heated debate spanning over many years. It ruffles people's feathers not only in this province but across the nation. While I am very opinionated about my political views, this is not why I am writing this article. I wholeheartedly believe that we all have the right to our own opinions based on our own personal experiences. That is precisely what I am trying to do here. I am simply writing about my own personal experience and wondering what consequences it has on my child. It is by no means intended to disrespect anyone. This is simply our journey on a winding road that often takes us down a frightening and unknown path.
The 41st Quebec general election is scheduled for Monday April 7, 2014. If the current PQ minority government wins and becomes a majority government, what will this mean for my English-speaking autistic son and for his future here in this province?
A new PQ majority government would mean a possible referendum for Quebec separation from Canada in the near future. Yes, I know, we've been down this road before, only now, I have an autistic child who can only speak English. The dynamics have suddenly changed for me.
As a parent of an autistic child, I have spent the last 14 years planning. We planned ahead to get the wheels in motion for a proper diagnosis. We planned and organized proper therapy intervention objectives to help my son develop. Then there was planning for the right school not to mention the constant and never ending battle with school boards to ensure continuous support every year. Of course there's also a great deal of planning when preparing for social functions and family gatherings. Nothing can be omitted.
We must remember the dos and don'ts to having a successful outing. We definitely planned for the transition from elementary school to high school; planning for a new IEP (Individualized Education Plan) and new support at school. And of course, the most obvious, the most difficult and the one that scares us beyond words, planning for my son's future when I am no longer here to help him and protect him.
So I'm planning again, for his future and for ours as a family. Don't get me wrong, I love this province, I just don't like what's it's become over the last two years but most importantly, it's the uncertainty, the unknown that scares me the most.
My son was non-verbal for the first five years of his life having little or no speech at all. Imagine my joy, my relief and my excitement when he started talking! Even if it was just a few words, they were the most beautiful words ever spoken. My son has enough challenges to deal with; I don't want language to be one of them. He risks being silenced in a province that could, in the future, choose not to recognize his language. I find it quite ironic how his major obstacle as an infant, language development, is again becoming a source of impediment for him in this province.
I advocate for my son because for the moment he cannot advocate for himself. I refuse to let society dictate what he should be by the sole definition of what society deems as the norm. I believe we all have the right to live our life as we see fit for ourselves.
I feel the future for my son in Quebec is not very optimistic. I don't believe the government is sensitized not only towards his needs and rights but also towards those of all English speaking special needs people who cannot speak French. Do they not have a right to prosper, live, work and thrive in this province even if they don't speak French? For the moment, I believe the answer to my question is "No."
It's not easy to pick up and move. Our whole family, our roots, our memories and all that we know has been around our beautiful city of Montreal. This is home for us. But we must seriously consider what our options are because my son deserves to be happy, successful and feel safe in his surroundings just as much as the next person. It's within all of our rights to live freely and without discrimination.
As the election date approaches I am trying to think of other things, distracting my mind from such a heavy and serious issue that has caused me many sleepless nights.
I worry not only for my child but also for the future of all the special needs children in this province. How heartbreaking to know that they have to deal with even more obstacles than they already have; something that in my opinion should be a non-issue.
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