“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.” George Orwell

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Ruminations on typical things

Our church is putting together a pictorial church directory.  We decided that all of the members of our class for developmentally disabled adults should be included in the directory.  So we scheduled portrait settings with the photographer and had the pictures made.  Not only would our members get to be in the directory, they would get a free (to them at least) 8x10 professional portrait.  This past Sunday, we passed out the photographs.  But we didn’t just pass them out, we unveiled them by pulling each picture out of the envelope in front of the entire group.  The unveilings were followed by many oohs and aahs as well as “What a great picture of you!”  It was great fun.

It struck me, however, that most of these people probably never had had a professionally made photo before.  Many questions flood my mind as to why not, but the fact is that this experience was novel for them.  I wondered about other experiences which persons without disability regularly enjoy which persons with cognitive disability have not had the opportunity to engage in.  These kinds of things do not necessarily have to be prohibitive in cost, like sitting for a photo might be.  Just things which people without disability who weren’t raised in an institution or group home, or who as adults have had their opportunities limited for whatever reason, have the opportunity to do.

Some of these simple things are easily provided by regular families, by just allowing participation in the regular lives they live.  Some of the things which I and my family have done can provide examples. 

-For a while, I was having coffee every Friday morning with a man who was a friend of mine.  We talked about his work, my work, our families or friends, things we had seen on TV, our successes and frustrations with life.
-Occasionally, we have some friends up to the house to watch a movie.  We have nachos or hotdogs, and hot drinks if we sit outside on a cold night.  Sometimes we will play table games.
-Once in a conversation, a woman we know indicated that she hadn’t received any Christmas presents that year from her fairly large, yet dysfunctional family who lived nearby.  The following year, and the past several years since, she has spent Christmas day with us and our family.  Everyone loves to give her presents from our immediate and extended family, and she sits happily opening them for a long time.
-A friend of mine needed a few extra dollars and asked if he could do some work for us.  Occasionally, we have him up to wash our cars.  We pay about 10$ a car, and he usually has lunch with us as well.  But the best part is that we then complain to him till the next time he comes up about how dirty our cars are, and how if he had done a good job they would still be clean (by the way, we live on a dirt road).
-Every Sunday morning I meet with a couple of guys and have a donut.  We each pick out our favorite grab a cup of coffee and talk to each other or the people who walk by.

The experiences are no different than any someone would do in a typical day.  The only difference is that the experiences I described above are with friends of mine who are mentally retarded.  They are the same experiences you would have with anyone else.

People have to get over the mental hurdle that people with mental retardation are so different that somehow one can’t do the same things he would typically do with someone who isn’t disabled.

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