I wanted to express my gratitude for the Feb. 10 Magazine article about the love story between Bill Ott and Shelley Belgard [““When Bill met Shelley”]:
I am the mother of an incredibly happy and sweet 2-year-old who has a rare genetic disorder. Not much is known about her long-term prognosis, though many children with the same disorder struggle with mobility and communication. We got her diagnosis when she was 4 months old, and I was devastated. One of the things I grieved over the most was the thought that no one would ever love her as much as her father and I do. It made me so sad to think that she would be lonely in life.
Fast-forward two years, and though she is incredibly delayed, she lights up a room with her smile and connects with every person she meets. I no longer grieve for her future but think of it as a blank slate. The Post’s article gave me insight into a future for my child that I had pushed out of my mind as a possibility.
Jennifer Lewis, Washington
While we celebrate Bill Ott and Shelley Belgard’s union and respect their decision not to have children, it is important to challenge any assumption that having an intellectual disability makes it too difficult to have a child.
Currently, 4 million parents — 6 percent of American mothers and fathers — have a disability. But societal attitudes about parenting with a disability have not yet caught up with reality. Sadly, the rate at which children are taken from parents who have intellectual and developmental disabilities is between 40 percent and 80 percent — for no other reason than perceived danger to the child.
This is a heartbreaking reality for too many families across the nation. Just as we rightly challenge misconceptions about people with disabilities and romantic relationships, we need to also question assumptions about the ability to parent.
Jeff Rosen, Washington
The writer is chairman of the National Council on Disability.