And now a brief message from these sponsors (just kidding, we don’t have any).
Have you ever gotten involved in something, like I did with disability advocacy, and then a few weeks or months or years down the road wondered if you were still relevant? I know I have. Just the other day I was thinking about the disability rights movements of the 1970s-’80s, back before we had IDEA or the ADA or any of that. And I thought, “Well, we have all that now. Most people are not actively trying to treat PWDs as second class, are they? I mean, what if I made all this up because I’m just a bitter person?”
And then I got a timely reminder that you, and I, and all the advocates out there: we’re still relevant, darn it!
This happened while I was killing time and letting the recent post on CP percolate, while watching YouTube. I semi-frequently watch a video series called Messy Mondays. These are created thanks to a college student named Jordan who is a Christian and grew up in the Bible belt. They are funny, insightful, and tongue-in-cheek looks at the Christian subculture.
One such video is titled “The 10 Kids You Meet at Youth Group.” In it, Jordan and his friends go over examples like the pastor’s kid, the kid who’s there to play games, the super-spiritual kid, etc. A lot of people wrote in to comment on types that were left out.
I noticed one person wrote in and said (paraphrase):
“The down syndrome kid. You know that kid who wins games for doing nothing and is always hitting you but doesn’t get called out because they’re special.”
I mean, ugh.
- You at least could have capitalized Down Syndrome, grammar murderer.
- What, did you see Educating Peter one too many times? (Horrible documentary, BTW, largely because it shows Peter acting in stereotypical ways, such as hitting people and screaming. You know like, “Look, this is what all people with Down Syndrome do.”) No, it’s not, and those who do engage in that kind of behavior need to be reprimanded, but understood as well.
- “Don’t get called out because they’re special?” Well if that’s true, that means the leaders have problems, not the youth group member.
- Wins for doing nothing–okay, yeah, I’ve seen that one with other disabilities. Some youth leaders, teachers, etc. believe that in order to make PWDs feel included you have to let them win, or get rewarded without effort. In actuality, this is harmful and only perpetuates pity and stereotypes, so quit doing it.
Look, I’m sure examples of this person exist in some youth groups and other circles, but not everywhere. And if it were just that one stupid comment I wouldn’t be posting. But what got me is how several people *agreed*, saying things like, “Yeah, this kid hit me one time with her 2-pound purse and nobody did anything”, “I KNOW, right?” and even, “Down Syndrome kids are a waste of effort if you ask me.” (Which nobody did!)
My point? Wake up and smell the coffee, advocates. You’re still relevant. I’m still relevant. It’s not 1975 or 1982 or even 1990 anymore, but as long as attitudes like this exist on the Internet and in real life, we’ve got work to do. If a person with a disability is still being barred from anywhere–from church, of all places–we’re not done.
We’re still relevant, darn it! So get out there and be relevant.