Co-authors and sisters, Gina Gallagher and Patricia Terrasi, addressed an audience at the O’Leary Library, describing their motivation behind their book, “Shut Up About Your Perfect Kid.”
The book details their similar struggles in raising unique children with disabilities. They had had normal lives, Gallagher explained, until they started to see the signs.
And they were explainable at first, said Gallagher. She gave examples like poor pencil grip and scissor-cutting exercises, incompetencies which are common enough among preschool students. The word “disability,” said Gallagher, was first brought into the conversation by the preschool itself. She had offered other explanations for her daughter’s less-than-normal performance such as nervousness and hypersensitivity.
They both agreed that even despite the initial shock it was hard to move forward. The lack of information was an issue, as was finding the right resources. Prior expectations were forgotten in the face of new and smaller, more meaningful ones, Gallagher said.
Their voices seamlessly weaved into a single dialogue as they discussed the social and societal pressures involved in the raising of a child with disabilities. An adequate example was the stigma surrounding the common understanding of specific disabilities such as Asperger’s syndrome or other autism spectrum disorders.
Gallagher also mentioned the difficulty of a social life when parenting a child. The life of a parent with a child with disabilities is jarringly adverse to a parent without one. This makes it hard to relate. Evidence of this, explained Gallagher, often takes the form of misunderstandings.
Despite the undeniable hardships, Terrasi explained, “it has been a blessing.” They transitioned the discussion into something like a seminar as they explained the coping strategies and support systems they had developed and become familiarized with. A basic principle, said Gallagher, is to stay positive despite an environment of negativity. She gave examples of limitations set by educators, doctors and professionals alike that were surpassed, although in not all cases easily, by her daughter.
“Every child has tremendous potential,” said Terrasi. And thus was the motivation for their book, they explained. It was about “creating a dialogue,” said Gallagher, “and learning from our experience.” She touched upon briefly, in conclusion, the overwhelming and innumerable lessons that she had learned from parenting in these circumstances. It was tacit that Terassi agreed. “I shouldn’t call it a disability, because it has been nothing but a gift.”
“Shut Up About Your Perfect Kid” has gained over 700,000 followers on Facebook and has been translated into Korean.
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