It's Blog Against Disablism Day!
Here is my hastily-written story:
My sister Maria ( who is 21 ) has Down Syndrome. Two years ago we graduated from high school together and now she is attending a locally renowned special skills center three days a week and the other two she is volunteering at a special education pre-school that is run by her own pre-school teacher, Deb Haddix. Next fall, as a part of her special skills education she will be volunteering at a local hospital which is in collaboration with the school.
Yada, yada. Those are just a few of the recent accomplishments she has made. When Maria was diagnosed with Down Syndrome the doctors told my parents that she would only be able to dress herself, perform simple tasks, and never learn to read. Well, that jump started my parents. Looking everywhere for materials to help her to learn how to read they found nothing suitable. So they decided to make their own. It was a long, slow process. Maria began to have seizures at about one year of age and had them continually for the next two years. She was put on medication that helped to control the seizures but had an effect on her cognitive abilities. For a while my parents thought she was deaf. Finally, Maria came off the medication. During all this time my parents had worked with her on reading and speaking. Then.....
She began to bloom. Words and sentences out of nowhere. Words like "oscillate" and "stupendous." By the age of five Maria was reading over 1,000 words and more in Spanish and French. What a vocabulary! Today, Maria loves to read anything, especially the dictionary and the encyclopedia. She is great at math, problem solving, critical thinking - she knows no limits. She talks like you and I. She has no speech impairment, but even if she did, it wouldn't matter.
I have learned so much from her. When one thinks "Down Syndrome," one thinks of individuals who cannot process, cannot understand, cannot feel. I know from experience. But Maria has broken all borders and molds. She is social, caring, intelligent, compassionate, funny, endearing, sweet, light-hearted, emotional, and so much more. I don't see her as an individual who has a disability, I see her as an individual who has a unique perspective on life - and we can all learn from that perspective.
This is how all "disabled" individuals are - if only we took the time to know them! Disabled, my ass. It is we who are disabled, when we cannot see past our own perceptions. All individuals are beautiful. All. Next time you see someone who is "different" go out of your way - I mean it, damnit - and interact with that person in a positive way. You might approach this idea as doing that person a favor - but, no, it is yourself that you are doing the favor for. You are exploring. You are reaching out. And in doing so, you can connect with individuals who will change you. And change, my friends, will always give you the tools to embrace life. I know. Maria changes me every single day. And I love it.