Disabilities vs. Abilities

 

Stolen ideas

In recent years, there seems to have been a rise in the occurrence of mental and emotional disability labels on children. Whether that’s due to a changing, unhealthy environment, or an increase in those seeking professional diagnoses, or both, is unclear. I tend to think it’s some of both, but I also think we as a society have become sort of mental hypochondriacs. Since the advent of the internet, I know I’ve diagnosed myself with all sorts of maladies, some real, some imagined! Time was, we used to receive a doctor’s diagnosis and trek around to other doctors getting second, third, and fourth opinions. Now sometimes we trek around to different psychologists until one does diagnose something that placates us.

But the concern I have is for those children out there who may be, as it were, held back by some label of “abnormality” placed on them by well-meaning adults, an abnormality that, but for the label, they would never know they had. “Treat the disabled normally. They don’t want to be singled out,” the labelers beg of us, when they themselves have already singled them out by placing the glaring label on them for all to see.

Consider my analogy, simplified I know, but it makes sense to me. Suppose half the people of the world prefer blue as their favorite color; the other half likes red as their favorite. It’s been that way for centuries with no notice, but then, during our “enlightened” 21st century, some highly degreed doctors get together and decide that liking blue best is what they’re going to call “normal”, and liking red best is now “abnormal”. The sad news for red-lovers is that there is no cure for their condition. The best hope doctors have for the families of red-lovers is that, perhaps with some medication and/or ongoing therapy, they might get those so disabled to at least like purple, then they could have some semblance of a productive life.

Blue-loving families everywhere demand equal treatment for their unfortunate red-loving family member, but those who haven’t watched the news didn’t even know there was a blue-red debate going on.

And color preference is relative. What about the family made up of all red-lovers, except for that one single blue-lover? Might “normal” have a different definition to them?

Now I’m not saying that “abnormal” doesn’t exist. Genes can go awry. If a person is so obsessed with the color red that they paint every visible object red, the lamps, the carpet, the TV, the dog, then yes, they need some intervention, especially before they go painting the neighbors’ house, lawn, and dog red. But don’t let such persons give all red-lovers a bad name. Most likely, there are a commensurate number of painters whose work has gone unchecked during their blue period.

But if you look at history, you’ll see that it’s been both the blue and red-lovers who have made progress in our world. A worried someone once told me their child had the same disorder as Einstein, Isaac Newton, Mozart, Bill Gates, and Steven Spielberg. “And this is a problem why?” I sorely wanted to know. I submit that if those illustrious figures had not possessed such a, so-called, abnormality, we would not have the scientific discoveries, inventions, and profound cultural arts that we have today. Oh, they may have been trying at times to their mothers, but thank goodness they weren’t medicated and therapied into some ordinary human’s definition of “normalcy”.

We have a family member who no doubt could’ve been diagnosed with a certain disability. I’m not sure because we never took him to a doctor. We bought him a video camera instead so he could give form to his creativity. And our home has often been a hangout for several friends with varying degrees of disabilities. We’ve never noticed anything abnormal about them…I guess because we’re just a bunch of red-lovers over here, happily ignorant of the box we’re thinking outside of. And for the record, my favorite color really is red…..and green, but that’s a whole ‘nuther blog post!

 

Bringing the Arts Home

The Creation of Adam by Michelangelo

As a child, I loved ballet. I attended a performance of “The Nutcracker” every Christmas with my school and listened to my LP of music from the same all year long. And I took ballet classes at the nearby rec center every Wednesday for six years. Becoming a professional ballerina was on my short list of things I wanted to do when I grew up. I progressed to a point where there wasn’t much more to learn, except pointe, where the dancers go up to their tippy toes. It’s a very hard-learned technique, requiring specially fitted shoes and long-term specialized training. I wanted to learn pointe technique, but my parents were dissuaded by the cost and the drive across town to the professional dance school where it was taught. So my dance career sort of dissolved away by high school when my interests turned to other things, one of which was writing. Probably just as well. I doubt I would still be a ballerina now, but I still have many words to be written.

My family has all found, or is in the process of finding, their niche in the arts. One son recently said that it was of prime importance to him that his future children be involved in the arts. That got me thinking about what we’ve done to point him in an artistic direction, and what he might do someday to similarly inspire his children. (And while homeschool is ideal for this, it isn’t required.)

1) Start children young, I mean as toddlers, in introducing them to all forms of the arts. If they don’t know what all categories of the arts there are, they won’t know what they’re good at and what they would enjoy.

2) When you see an interest, feed it with resources and instruction. Many fun things we’ve used are detailed in other articles on this blog.

3) If you’re afraid that it might be difficult or expensive to find resources, be creative (that’s what this is all about!) and find a way. Check with libraries, community resources, recommendations from neighbors. We spent very little to encourage our children in the arts. There are no good excuses!

4) If they lose interest in something you thought they would like, or that they seemed to like at first, it’s perfectly okay. Some things won’t stick. You have to experiment and acquire a taste for some things. A deep and burning passion cannot be forced.

I must close now and get to bed. We have an art museum field trip tomorrow.