Monday, July 13, 2009

Just Who Am I, Anyway?

Poston (1990) described an identity development model that relates to individuals who are biracial in descent. Given my last post, I was thinking about how this identity development model relates to having multi-abilities in your family. This all has to do with being caught between two or more worlds. Poston’s model has five stages. I will first define it according to the racial element and then comment on it related to how it may apply to ability:

Personal Identity Stage – The sense of self is largely independent of ethnic heritage. For the ability portion, I would suggest that this would involve having a sense of self that is independent of all ability. Prior to Quinn coming into my life, I never really thought about ability/disability as it related to my identity. I would say that I was in this area pre-Quinn. Even when my sons were born I didn’t really worry about such things. Their development just happened, I didn’t really think about it.

Choice of Group Categorization Stage – One feels pressure to identify with one racial orientation by parent, peers, or society. With abilities, I see this as the pressure to decide which world you will be in at any time – gifted, typical, or cognitively disabled. Once we received Quinn’s diagnosis, I was very much feeling pressure (both within and outside of myself) to connect to the world of disability. This was good for me in a lot of ways, but the more and more I became connected, I was missing something too.

Enmeshment/Denial Stage – There are likely to be considerable negative feelings (conscious or unconscious) about the denial of one of the racial heritages. When this comes to ability, if one chooses typical, then they may feel bad about not being more connected to disability and vice versa. I think I am somewhere here because I have been somewhat concerned about how much I focus on disability now. Am I giving my sons and the typical (maybe even gifted) parts enough attention? But then I am truly interested in this area of disabilities – not only personally but now professionally. I am learning so much and enjoying it the more I read, study, and contemplate. I really don’t know what the answer is, but balance is important.

Appreciation Stage – The individual begins to value roots of both parents. For the multi-abilities, you begin to value both or multiple sides. I also may be here because I am thinking and talking about both sides more – at least I have been posting about this the last two days. I see the good things about having a child who has a disability, and I see the good things about having two children who are typical or advanced.

Integration Stage – Wholeness and integration of both identities occurs. This is where both sides come together and make you who you are. I inspire to get here, but this is probably like self-actualization and doesn’t happen too often with too many individuals. I see the beauty of this stage, and if I get there, its role in my life over where I started out in the personal identity stage. If you don’t have a child with some type of disability, it is difficult to describe this feeling, but to me, it is through this experience that you begin to realize that you were missing a whole outlook on life (almost an essential part of you) before having your child with a disability. It was like you were totally not seeing something that was there in our world the whole time. At least that is my experience I guess.


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