I can remember the first time I saw someone with a disability. Here, I stood, a child that ran faster than most within the sunshine state and my mother introduced me to someone who had no arms. Talk about a WOW factor...this woman was supposed to: teach, help, and keep up with me?! Little did I know, this woman would teach me more than most-and they had all their appendages.
"I'm thirsty", I said. "Cups are in the cabinet to the right of the sink. I have water, milk, or orange juice", she said. Feeling as if she should be getting the drink, I had mixed emotions. I wanted to be mad that she couldn't just get it for me, but yet- she had no arms. Needless to say, I got the drink of my choice.
Later, I asked her to play a board game. All my sitters before had done so- why should she be any different? She refused. "Don't you like to draw and paint?", she asked. Of course I did. Why in the world would this woman ask if I liked to draw? She couldn't possibly do it with me. So, here I would be, drawing away until my mother came to get me. I could've never been so wrong.
"Great. Follow me. My studio is ready for us", she said jovially. Enthralled, I watched her as she painted and pushed me to do the same. I was so intrigued in how she used her feet to paint. In a way, she was way better - and I had my hands/fingers. If I hadn't seen it with my own eyes, I don't think I would've believed it.
Needless to say, by the time I left, this woman had done more within one day than anyone I knew. She was awesome! It was at my humble age of 7, I understood the word-diversity. I didn't even know that word existed until my college years. It wasn't until I had my son, that I actually had to teach the meaning of that word.
One day, I watched as Chris and some neighborhood girls played outside. Apparently, they found it funny to pretend as if they didn't have any arms. Chris, being gullible, joined in what he considered -fun. Of course, I was appalled. Instead of yelling belligerently, I waited until the opportune time came about to teach a lesson. Everyone wanted snacks, and Chris offered the cookies I had just bought. Leading him into the kitchen, I deliberately placed the cookies at a place he couldn't get to. When he went for the chair, I then told him, "You are not allowed to use your hands. Out in the front yard, you had none; therefore, you will obtain the cookies using other means."
His face told it all. He had no idea how to do so. After a few minutes of watching his frustration, I finally told him to stop. For him to think it was fun/funny to pretend he didn't have arms-was not so good. It's actually hard. I compared the way kids make fun of some of the things he does- to the way they made fun of having no arms. I asked him if he like that others made fun of him. Obviously, he said no. I then asked, "would you think someone with no arms would find what you and those girls did, amusing?" His response was a definite- NO.
His face showed he understood. Many people have disabilities. Some that are seen by the naked eye, and others that aren't. When I established the similarity within the difference, Chris didn't think having no arms was funny. Actually, he gained more respect for those he could see with a disability.
Unfortunately, having a disability, one that can be seen or not - has it's own difficulties. To have others question your ability-make fun of- or think it's weird/crazy, cannot be good for morale. It's also not good to make prejudice opinions.
Mother Theresa once said, "If you judge people you have no time to love them." No-one has ever been so right. My sitter, with no arms, showed me more than anyone with an appendage has. I've met people who cannot talk, but yet show love/compassion in many ways others only wish they could.
Not understanding diversity within disability can affect many things. People can be obstinate due to jealousy. My disability is worse than yours, attitude. People are made fun of because their disability is different then theirs. Ironically, there is a similarity within all things. There is also an "awe" factor" if you look hard enough.
When I see Chris doing things I never thought he would....or others accepting his "imperfections" - I'm elated. Unfortunately, I've witnessed too many not seeing the greatness in another. Not being tolerant of someone because of their differences. This is why I decided to write, "Learning About My Disability Through Others".
I met some people who are Schizophrenic. To some, their lifestyle or thoughts may be too much for someone to understand. I completely get it. Growing up with a mother who probably fit this mold, but had enough money to deny this diagnosis, it's a hard thing to comprehend. It's probably ten times harder to have a child with it. I wanted someone to take care of me, but couldn't - as a parent of one, you want to protect, but can't. It might even be harder to have the diagnosis and know it, but just can't deal. Regardless of which mold you fit, I found it necessary to bring it to other's attention. This is not something that's seen on the outside. Many don't even know they deal with this disability. When they do, they can't accept help.
One story that comes to mind is the "Soloist". A movie was based on a real life drama, in which a man with a promising career, failed due to a mental illness. Another man, non-related, felt that his story deserved attention. Things may not be great, but many hurdles have been overcome.
Doesn't every person, with a disability, deserve to be accepted- at least by one, if not many?
Don't others with a disability, deserve the same attention in diversity as others with a different culture?
Me- I THINK SO.
A mother of a special need child and advocate for all!