Often in today’s society, people want to diagose things so they can easily be “fixed”. Especially in cognitive disablities, it seems so much easier to stick a label and medicate the percieved issue. This diagnostic culture creates so many issues. Not all disablities need to be fixed. Some of them have no cure.
I have a younger brother Ryan who is seven years younger than me. He is extremely energetic and I love him very much. He seems like a pretty normal kid to most. However, he is diagnosed with severe ADD and some other mental disablities. As he gets older, its hard to write off the things he does as “just being a kid”. When something does not go his way, he can cry for hours. Tasks that are simple for others to learn, such as easy vocabulary words, cause him immense stress. I remember in high school i would stay up late with him and teaching him about fractions to percents, frustrated that he could not understand something i found simple.
When he was in 5th grade, he was moved to a special learning class. he had alot of friends before, but he after that he was grouped as one of the “stupid” kids. It was harder and harder for him, and he made it harder for us. When we cant understand what he wants, he resorts to punching and yelling. My parents made a choice to not medicate him as his brain has not fully developed, and the reliance on meds might negatively shape his brain functions. HOwever, so many people want to know ” What’s wrong with that kid?” My boyfriend asked me that the first time he met him. I get embaraessed to let Ryan meet people, because of that reason. He constantly interupts and does not have a filter. I still find it hard to accept that he is not acting like that on purpose. And even I find myself asking ” What’s wrong with him?”
However, there is nothing wrong with him. That’s just the way it is. My mom has been told its her fault, as Ryan is the youngest, and she was “too old” when she had him- she was 37-38. We were told he needs to be on medications, not from doctors, but from well measnaing friends. This is the part of society’s issue. They constantly need a diagnose and a reason why it happened. It makes people feel better to think that Ryan didnt get enough attenteion as a child, or my mom was too old. Ot makes people go, “I wouldn’t do that to my child. It wouldn’t happen to me.” It could happen to anyone. But I would never change my brother. I love him so much, and there is no one who can make me laugh as much as him.
In the movie I saw recently in French class, Michou d’Auber, there was a representation of a boy with down syndrome. Although the movie showed him as a character that was more than a simple prosthetic narrative, he represents lots of stereotypes. Paul, the boy, is not allowed inside the house. Rather he lives outside with the animals. He is viewed as untrustworthy, and when something is missing, he is the first one to blame. Georges, the man who he works for, puts a knife under his fingernails until he confesses his crime, although he did not commit one. Another aspect of Paul is his sexual perversion. He is constantly trying to see naked titties and begs others to buy him pornographic magazines. This is all he thinks about, and men at the bar joke that “ with a face like his, those magazines are the best he’s going to get,” alluding to the fact that his disability is behind is inability to be with a real women .
This character creates issues in typecasting people with down syndrome. The first issue is that he is treated as outside the family, and not allowed in the house. The view of people with mental disabilities as problematic and untrustworthy is bad. The only times we see Paul in the house is when he sneaks in to watch tv or when Georges’ life falls apart and he allows Paul to drink with him because he wife is cheating on him. Throughout the movie, he is not treated as a person and more like an animal. Representation of down syndrome in movies does not need to be this way. Instead, he could have been a family member and seen as a friend to the main character.
Scrolling through Facebook the other day, I saw many links and articles. However, one caught my attention due to the subject of disability. It is about a girl who became “invisible.”
Rather than having people ask her what she would like or how she was doing, they assumed people around her could answer for her. In this reading, her disability was not specified, like Christopher’s in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime.
The author explains that rather feeling invisible from her limitations, the society makes her feel worthless and insecure about herself, as she is treated like a child who cannot figure out simple tasks, or just ignored completely. One of the authors issues is how people are treated different instead of normal when they have a perceived disability. However, this issue brings in the other extreme. If society does treat people with disabilities the same way as “able -bodied” people, then they will still be disadvantaged. Without curb cuts, ramps, and special ed classes so people can learn at their own pace, people with disabilities are also disabled by society.
This is where the question of how much extra attention should people with disabilities receive? There is no clear answer, as every person and every disability are different. The easiest way is to simply ask. Yes everyone is trying to make the world a more accommodating place, as the universal design model explains, not every one wants help. When someone talks down or immediately assumes they are incapable of taking care of themselves, it belittles people with disabilities. Treat someone with disabilities as you would anyone else and then respect their decisions. Never let anyone feel invisible.
Over the last year the #METOO movement has been rising, and many people, including celebrities, are supporting this growing movement. However, some celebrities, including Norm MacDonald of the Norm Macdonald show, are showing their support in troubling ways. After an incident where MacDonald exclaimed that, “of course he supports the #MeToo movement! You’d have to have Down Syndrome not to! “, the public responded in a polarizing way. MacDonald using the word Down Syndrome to imply people who were incapable of empathizing and supporting others created many issues.
While some people believed that this was a huge insult to people with cognitive disabilities, others believed that people were overreacting, especially after the cancellation of his Netflix show. He was also banned from the Tonight Show.
His defense when questioned was that he was about to use the word “retarded” but stopped himself. Some reactions defended him:
These people believe in free speech and believe that the world is being too poltically correct, tearing down a celebrity for trying to support a cause.
On the other hand,other commenters were not there for him:
“I don’t care how “edgy” someone is, the words he chose are not ok and can cause others who aren’t educated on disabilities of all kinds (specifically DS) to have a negative view on those with them. That’s not right. Words are more powerful than we think.”
This is ableist and absolutely not okay. It implies that people with Down Syndrome can’t feel human emotions like empathy.
Overall the issue is a question is to what extent one can share their opinion in teir personal life before it impacts their career? Because clearly people with Dow Syndrome have ablities that include empathizing and thinking of others. In fact, many people with cognitive disablities are more in touch with their feelings and extremley sensitive to others emotions.