Empowerment.

This is a word that is used a lot. In my work as a Global Ambassador for Taryn Brumfitt’s “Body Image Movement”, we constantly talk about empowering girls and women to love and embrace their bodies.

When I look at the parallels of this movement and trying to achieve the same goals for our special needs children and individuals, I wonder how we can empower them to embrace their differences and love themselves.

To be on the ‘autistic spectrum’, have ‘dyslexia’ or ‘ADD’, are still labels that carry a stigma. And this is shocking, considering that 1 in 68 children have autism and 1 in 10 have ADD! There are some conditions such as dysgraphia and dyspraxia where there are no tangible statistics yet.

Going back to my statement that it is a label that carries a stigma, I know from my clients who are high functioning autistic or ADHD or ADD, that the children themselves do not want their peers to know and their parents do not want their children’s friends and families to know.

Not only do these children have all of the learning and social challenges that these conditions impose on them, but they also feel shame and are trying to hide it.  The amount of pressure on them is incredible.

How as a society are we empowering our children or adolescents at all? There are young girls and boys with image issues who feel ashamed and hate themselves, because of different physical attributes of their bodies that they have no control over.  There are LGBTQI children who also feel shame, self-loathing, hatred, confusion and believe they are a burden to their families.

Then there are our many special needs kids (from mild special needs to severe), who also have the same feelings of guilt, shame, self-loathing, hatred of themselves and belief that they are a burden to their families.

So I ask again: how are we empowering our children?