Pregnancy and Parenting Education Reform

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    I have invented two sister organizations, Pregnancy Education Reform and Parenting Education Reform aimed at informing expecting mothers and parents about crucial issues affecting individuals in the United States in order to promote inclusion and understanding and to create stronger communities. For my second web event I produced two potential publications from the initial organization, Pregnancy Education Reform. The first was a collection of pdf images of the pages of a pamphlet entitled, “Intersex: An Introductory Guide for Moms-to-be”. And the second was an open letter to primary care providers explaining how to most effectively use the pamphlet and general advice for making prenatal and postnatal care more sensitive to intersex children and their families. For this web event I have recreated the pamphlet and open letter to primary care providers for a second topic, cerebral palsy.  
    At the crux of Pregnancy Education Reform is my belief that prenatal care is a pivotal time for all women to be educated about important stigmatized issues such as disability and sexual differences. Many women attend prenatal appointments who might otherwise not see a doctor regularly and the early intervention of the information was crucial because differences could be detected as early as the ultrasound. However, for the third topic, sexual orientation, I chose to invent a sister organization, Parenting Education Reform, which would distribute its materials to parents through the child’s pediatrician. It would still involve the distribution of the pamphlet to all parents, not only those who ask questions about sexual orientation during a pediatrician appointment when their child is between the ages of 4 and 8. Although this age group may seem too young to be thinking about sexual orientation, we want to try reach all parents at an age where they are still accompanying their children to regular appointments and ideally before preconceived notions about sexual orientation are shared with their children.
     It has been striking to me as I create these pamphlets how truly intra-connected these fights for recognition, rights and understanding are. My first suggestion under How Can You Educate Others to “Promote the values of understanding acceptance and appreciation of all differences” remains unchanged in all three versions of the pamphlet. I initially came up with this concept for our second web event about sexual diversity and as a reflection of my personal academic interests it already anticipated many of the themes of activism from our third unit. Now with the inclusion of disability and sexual orientation, it incorporates key concerns from all phases of our class from the preface to the conclusion. I hope that in my promotion of right relationships between primary care providers, recipients of the materials and the individuals and their families that are affected by these differences I have also created a right relationship between myself and the latter group. Whenever possible I used information and quotes directly from individuals with intersex, CP and/or a non-heterosexual sexual orientation rather than organizations that speak for them. My ultimate hope would be that one day these three pamphlets would no longer need to educate but rather would only serve as a refresher for all parents. That one day the institutional silence, at best, and shame, ostracism and violence, at worst around issues of disability, sexual difference and sexual orientation would be things of the past.  

Dear Primary Care Providers,

As the nurses, physicians, doulas, midwives and other primary care providers of prenatal care across the country, we want to thank you for your incredible hard work and dedication. We would like to announce the publication of our new informational pamphlet, “Cerebral Palsy: An Introductory Guide for Moms-to-be.” We hope that you will incorporate this pamphlet as a teaching tool into the prenatal care for all patients starting immediately.

Contents of the pamphlet:
-A quick overview of cerebral palsy
-A call to action for CP rights
-An argument against supercrip stereotyping and Ableism
-Advice for all parents
-Guidelines to educate others and create a safe space
-An abbreviated list of resources

We suggest that you distribute this pamphlet during a prenatal visit before the third trimester, to ensure that it is read before even those women who deliver premature give birth. We hope to establish the possibility that a child be born with cerebral palsy to lessen the shock and/or sense of loss a parent may feel when they are expecting a child without a disability.

We also ask, when time permits, to not only distribute these flyers, but to actually read through the material with the patient. This is a complicated topic that many women will have very little prior exposure to. The sensitive content also may impede timid women from seeking further information on their own. Pregnancy and potential birth outcomes can be very anxiety producing for a mother and our goal is to educate rather than frighten women. As for all prenatal education topics distributed by our organization, if a partner is available we suggest you attempt to involve them in the conversation. This is especially important for this topic because there are a lot of misconceptions and myths about cerebral palsy and mothers of children with CP face an incredible burden to educate any friends or family members about the condition. Additionally, the partner would be one more educated individual about a topic that faces a lack of education and understanding across the board.

We hope this pamphlet will function as a revisionary text to question the ableism rampant in our society’s dominant discourse, media and popular culture. By educating all pregnant women, not only those who have already given birth to a child with CP, we hope to see improvements in the lives of children with CP and their parents through a strengthened community. We also hope the exercise of reading the material together will improve communication between patients and PCPs, which hopefully would strengthen their relationship and lead to better, and more consistently attended, prenatal care appointments and ultimately better birth outcomes.

Lastly, we want to remind you to practice what you preach. Education and reform is not unidirectional and changes can be implemented within your practice as well. A substantive component of this pamphlet emphasizes a rejection of the supercrip stereotype and ableism. Health care is a great opportunity to challenge our society’s discrimination against disabled individuals. Ensuring that all facilities are safe and accessible for individuals with both physical and less-visible disabilities would show a dedication to fairness and equality missing from many public institutions. Other changes could include providing nursery books that tell stories about children with disabilities that do not elicit pity or awe, but rather that treat them as equals to able-bodied children.

Please visit our website for further suggestions and a blog to discuss what you are already doing in your practice.

Thank you for your time.

Sincerely,

Pregnancy Education Reform

Pregnancy Education Reform
1 (800) MOM-TOBE
www.pregnancyeducationreform.org

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Dear Pediatricians,

As pediatricians you have the privileged position of not only interacting with children but also being a trusted source of information for parents. We are writing to introduce our new information pamphlet geared towards parents of young children, “Sexual Orientation: An Introductory Guide for Parents.” Even if you have not yet fielded questions about sexual orientation or if you do not usually do so in your practice, we still hope that you will incorporate this material into your pediatric appointments starting immediately.  

Contents of the pamphlet:
-A quick overview of sexual orientation
-Suggestions for parents of children who are questioning their sexualities, from individuals who are not-heterosexual
-A call to action against homophobia and heterosexism
-Advice for all parents
-Guidelines to educate others and a create a safe space
-An abbreviated list of resources

We suggest that you distribute the pamphlet during a pediatric visit when the child is between 4 and 8 years old. By arming parents with an introduction to this topic early on they will be more prepared for adolescence when children are most likely to start coming into contact with these themes on their own. Dr. Frankowski, in her article “Sexual Orientation and Adolescents,” stresses the important role pediatricians play for adolescents who are questioning their sexuality. She maintains, “it is important that pediatricians be able to discuss the range of sexual orientation with all adolescents and be competent in dealing with the needs of patients who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgendered or who may not identify themselves as such but who are experiencing confusion with regard to their sexual orientation.”

We also ask, when time permits, to not only distribute these flyers, but to actually read through the material with the patient. This is a complicated topic that suffers many damaging myths and societal moralizing. The sensitive content also may impede timid women from seeking further information on their own. The sexual orientation of one’s child can be very anxiety producing for a mother and our goal is to educate rather than frighten women. As for all education topics distributed by our organization, if a partner is available we suggest you attempt to involve them in the conversation. This is especially important for this topic because we stress a dedication to create a safe space within the home that rejects homophobia and heterosexism. It is crucial to involve both partners in order to achieve this.  Additionally, the partner would be one more educated individual about a topic that faces a lack of education and understanding across the board and could lessen the incredible burden to educate any friends or family members.

We hope this pamphlet will function as a revisionary text to balance out the unquestioning acceptance of heteronormative representations in the media and popular culture. By educating all parents, not only those who have a child who has begun to question their sexuality, we hope to see large scale improvements in the lives of questioning children and their parents. We hope the exercise of reading the material together will improve communication between parents and pediatricians, which hopefully would strengthen their relationship and lead to better, and more consistently attended, pediatric care appointments and ultimately better health outcomes.

Lastly, we want to remind you to practice what you preach. Education and reform is not unidirectional and changes can be implemented within your practice as well. A substantive component of this pamphlet emphasizes a rejection of homophobia and heterosexism. Pediatric care is a great opportunity to challenge our society’s reliance on heteronormativity. An institutional push to “implement policies against insensitive or inappropriate jokes and remarks by office staff,” “be sure that information forms use gender-neutral, nonjudgmental language,” and “display posters, brochures, and information on bulletin boards that demonstrate support of issues important to nonheterosexual youth and their families”  would set an important precedent of acceptance (Frankowski).

Please visit our website for further suggestions and a blog to discuss what you are already doing in your practice.

Thank you for your time.

Sincerely,

Parenting Education Reform

Parenting Education Reform
1 (800) KID-INFO
www.parentingeducationreform.org

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Works Cited:

"About/History." Home | GLSEN: Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network. GLSEN. Web. 13 Dec. 2011. <http://glsen.org>.

"Cerebral Palsy Information Page." National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS). 4 Oct. 2011. Web. 11 Dec. 2011. <http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/cerebral_palsy/cerebral_palsy.htm>.

"Cerebral Palsy - PubMed Health." Cerebral Palsy. A.D.A.M. Medical Encyclopedia., 16 Sept. 2009. Web. 11 Dec. 2011. <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0001734/>.

"Cerebral Palsy." Thames Valley Children Centre. Web. 11 Dec. 2011. <http://www.tvcc.on.ca/cerebral-palsy-3.htm>.

Clare, Eli. Exile and Pride: Disability, Queerness and Liberation. Cambridge: South End, 2009. Print.

Dictionary.com | Find the Meanings and Definitions of Words at Dictionary.com. Web. 12 Dec. 2011. <http://www.dictionary.com>.

Frankowski, B. L. "Sexual Orientation and Adolescents." Pediatrics 113.6 (2004): 1827-832. Print.

Gates, Gary J. "How Many People Are Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender?" The Williams Institute (2011). Print.

Jennings, Kevin. Always My Child: a Parent's Guide to Understanding Your Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgendered, or Questioning Son or Daughter. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2003. Print.

Lyn, Gary. "Dedicated to Parents of Gay Teens." Homosexuality Is Neither a Choice Nor a Sin. Gary Lyn. Web. 11 Dec. 2011. <http://lakeweedatarrowhead.net>.

Scott King, Coretta. Chicago Defender [Chicago] 1 Apr. 1998: 1. Print.

Images:

http://rlv.zcache.com/disability_awareness_poster-reb4abb86269c495095f133dfff04577e_az07_400.jpg
http://www.queeried.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/gay-marriage-liz-feldman.jpg
http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_vJJWmzKz0Gw/Ss6WegXWf2I/AAAAAAAAEDc/Ra4PDhzLH4A/s400/National+Equality+March+love+poster+photo+BRIGHTENED+resized.jpg
http://fc07.deviantart.net/fs71/f/2010/001/0/b/Love_is_Love_by_OlguiiS.png
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