Yesterday I heard the term "normal kids." The gist of what I heard was that it is important for the kids I work with to see what "normal kids" do. Two years ago I wouldn't be phased by that comment. Now I keep going back to it - thinking about it. It is really about the little things that are said that reflect the values existing in our society. What does the word normal really mean? That if you aren't normal that you are broken, defected, and need to be fixed? Plus what is normal is difficult to define. I'm not normal, but according to whose definition? There is a judgment there - an evaluation. And I am drawn to all of this because my own daughter, Quinn, would certainly be considered abnormal by someone. I would certainly be considered abnormal because I choose to have her after having a prenatal diagnosis (80-90% of people in similar situations terminate). So I am not like the "normal" women because I choose to give birth and raise a child with Down syndrome - a child who has enriched my life more than anyone can know. I think about Jonathan Mooney's own story in the book, The Short Bus. He was told by his teachers to be "normal." Please be normal today, Jonathan - that is what they said. Can you imagine hearing over and over again that you are not normal? Jonathan and the other kids in special education also knew they weren't like the "normal" kids in school, having to ride the short bus and enduring that stigma associated with that. In addition, his mother was told that there were certain things she needed to learn, like parenting skills, to make Jonathan more "normal." Again the idea that something must be wrong with you to have a child with a disability. It can't just happen to anyone - there must be a reason. I do think that belief is all over the place. People look for a reason why someone has a child with a disability - out of fear that it could happen to them. Interestingly, Jonathan is now a great success because of his ability to see things differently and outside of the norm. About this pressure to be "normal," Mooney says: "The message you get is that you are broken; you have to change and fix yourself to be OK" (p. 47). But change comes from within - you can't force it on anyone. And it seems like a fair amount of time the "normal" people want the abnormal ones to change more for their own comfort than anything else.
4 days ago