Written by: Tyler Perrott, Student at IUPUI School of Social Work
I have had a different life compared to most people. I have grown up with a twin sister who has fairly severe Cerebral Palsy. On top of that, I have worked and volunteered for several years with people who have special needs. These opportunities have given me a unique insight into living with people who have a multitude of physical and mental disabilities. People often ask me how do I approach this group of people or how do I talk and not offend them. These individuals are often well intended and have hopes of being friendly and getting accepted by people with developmental disabilities. I often just smile back and say treat them like you would want to be treated. People who are deemed “normal” by societal standards struggle with the fear of upsetting these people, hurting their feelings, not getting a response, etc. Everyone I know has dealt with this fear at some point or another. This fear in turn translates into the way that we treat this unique group of people. I have learned from my experience that maybe us “normal” people could stand to learn a thing or two from the so-called “disabled” of society.
First off I am going to give you my observational viewpoint from watching the “normal” people in society and their behavior towards the “disabled”. One day I was in Wal-Mart with my sister shopping and several different times people I knew and who knew my sister or at least knew of her came up and only spoke to me and didn’t even acknowledge my sister. Again, I don’t think it was the people’s intentions but it still happened nonetheless. In that same trip two people came up to my sister with developmental disabilities and the second question they asked after seeing how my sister was doing was directed towards me. It was what’s your name and how are you doing? The manner in which they treat and view people is completely different. There are a multitude of times that I have seen this play out. I think that many “normal” people are just ignorant to the fact that they are even doing it. I don’t think they are intentionally blowing these people off or wanting to pretend they don’t exist but that again doesn’t negate the fact that IT DOES happen. Now if we flip the perspective and look at how people with “disabilities” view others you don’t see this happening. They have the greatest natural ability to see people for exactly what they are, people.
In conclusion, the point of this blog was not to condemn people for this but merely give them an opportunity to learn from fellow human beings. This people group has an amazing ability to treat everyone with equality and without a bias. I have learned so much from them and I will continue to be learning things from them. I know a majority of people will still have a fear of these people but don’t let this fear cripple you from learning and walking life with this extraordinary group of individuals.