Wednesday, June 6, 2012
Wednesday Special Needs Blog Hop: Downs Kid? (and other words of brilliance)
This little snippet of conversation between Spock and Kirk illustrates Meriah's Blog Hop topic this week: what have people said that has gotten under your skin about something that relates to your connection with disability - and what do you want them to say instead?
I'm not the sort of person to call out a well-meaning person on something they've said that isn't totally appropriate in the special needs community. I mean, how are they supposed to know? They think they're saying something nice, but there's a whole book of more PC jargon out there that they can't have been expected to read. Those of us in the know hear what they say, we feel the nails on the chalkboard, and we should just let it go, which I do. Why alienate someone over that?
That being said, that nails-on-the-chalkboard effect still lingers when someone says "Downs kid," or "Down syndrome children." Want to make me really squirm (another one for my Words I Hate list...) in my seat in discomfort? Use the words high functioning or low functioning in a sentence. No, I won't call you out on it. Actually, you may be surprised that I'll actually be speechless and won't say anything at all. I'll start fidgeting, look down, desperately trying to think of some appropriate way to respond. Usually I'll just change the subject right then and there.
I mean, what the heck do you say to that? Thank you? Not appropriate. I don't think people can be viewed in terms of functionality, especially as children. Do people, not in the SN community, view children who can't speak as low functioning? Apraxia is a real condition that prevents someone from being able to mimic sounds. Doesn't mean they can't function. Or that they aren't smart. It can be overcome. Do people, not in the SN community, view people who don't speak clearly as low functioning? By nature of their physical make-up, they are unable to speak clearly. Nothing to do with their mental abilities. Do people, not in the SN community, view a person as high functioning or low functioning based on their ability to engage them, with their eyes, their smile, their body language? Well, you know what? My kid's a smart cookie, but catch her at a bad time, when any particular set of circumstances happen to come together randomly, and she may be completely shut down. Head down, arms limp at her side, eyes on the floor, tongue out, not talking. Does this mean someone will view her as low functioning?
This term is based on nothing other than a need for people to categorize, to classify, to judge. While the well-meaning person may just be wanting to pay a compliment, I think the better way to go about it would be to say, "Your daughter is so bright!" And yes, they'll get an answer from me then.