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 them or how do I talk to them without offending them.These people are often well intended and have hopes of being friendly or nice to this group of people.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 people group.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 view point from watching the “normal” people in society 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.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 people.
I am a pediatrician on the northwest side of Indy. I have just joined MCCOY’s Early Intervention and Prevention Task Force. One of the things MCCOY is working on is bringing together needed services in one location that is accessible to people near their homes. As a private pediatrician with an interest in psychosocial issues, I have encountered many, many patients over the years who have taught me about the high costs of early childhood trauma, neglect and abuse. When I was invited to be a guest blogger, I decided to share some of the encounters, although for the sake of honoring patient confidentiality, I have changed names and specifics. For today’s post, I will just share one.
Ralph is 15 years old. He was my patient when he was in preschool but didn’t come in for visits for 10 years. He returned because of school failure, conduct disorder, juvenile delinquency and anger issues. He had been diagnosed with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) as a young child but never followed up and never received treatment. He had a terrible relationship with his grandmother, who lived with Ralph and his mother. Ralph’s grandmother was harsh and emotionally abusive.
Ralph discovered at the age of 15 years that his biological father was a rapist and was being released from prison. His mother finally disclosed to him, once he found this out, that his grandmother hated him because of who and what his father was.
Some of the services which could have helped this situation:
Mental health services available to mother and grandmother after the rape that resulted in his birth
Care coordination and health care services available near his home to ensure ongoing treatment for ADHD
Mental health services available to Ralph when he found out about his father
Some of the costs of this psychosocial train wreck now include:
Cost of neuropsychiatric testing to sort out Ralph’s current diagnoses
Cost of counseling and medications to treat current symptoms
Cost of using the juvenile justice system
Emotional cost to Ralph of his grandmother’s hatred of him
Waste of educational resources since his ADHD, anger and juvenile delinquency have prevented him from taking advantage of the education available to him
Increased likelihood of depression, repeat juvenile offenses and later adult criminal activity because of the extreme damage done to his self-esteem over the years
I am sure there are many other resources which could have helped this situation. I am sure there are many more costs I haven’t mentioned. Ralph is just one example of the many, many children and teens who struggle because of violence, abuse and neglect.
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