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

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Typical experiences

In his discussion of the wounding experienced by persons with disabilities, Dr. Wolf Wolfensberger relates that often, particularly people with intellectual disabilities do not have the experiences typical of people in their culture.  So in the US, for example, I have known adults with intellectual disabilities who had never been to a restaurant before.  I actually had the delight of taking a few friends to their first restaurant when I found they had  never been to one.  Being in Southern California, we have found that many people have never been to the beach, or up in the snow when the mountains are white in the Winter.  But recently in our group at church, I have discovered a few other examples.

People enjoy hearing about other people's trips to exotic places.  Most persons with intellectual disabilities don't get to hear about people living or traveling to Africa, for example, because they do not have people who are making such travels in their social networks.  Therefore the simple experience of someone going on a trip, coming home, and then sharing pictures is something that may have never experienced.  

This past week, the women of our group sponsored a wedding shower for another woman who participates in our group.  I wonder how many wedding showers the typical adult with intellectual disabilities participates in in her lifetime?  Kathi told me that it was a delightful time where gifts were carefully selected and presented with pride and anticipation, and received with sincere thanks.  What a wonderful memory for the future bride and all those who participated in her shower.  The men of the group also teased about the shower as a "chick" occasion as men do which is actually a part of the fun of whole experience.

How wonderful to be able to enrich lives of people who through no fault of their own miss out on typical things that are part of the lives of those who do not have an intellectual disability.  



MJH said...

I've been thinking a lot about this throughout the summer, particularly in regards to kids in the foster system, but also a friend of mine that I took to San Diego who had never been on a train (we took the trolley into the city) before. Whether it was a 17-year old foster kid eating a s'more for the first time or Daniel riding on a trolley I felt somewhat more connected to each of them than ever before. I think sometimes well-intentioned individuals think the marginalized are lacking in large mega experiences, yet I think in focusing on that we miss the joy in the mundane and the everyday. I appreciate the post as I have been looking at ways with my friendships and relationships to move beyond the event-oritented life (Sunday School, Worship, Special Olympics, etc) to the mundane and everyday. God Bless

Anonymous said...

I think this was an excellent blog because people without intellectual disabilities don't really think about people with intellectual disabilities not being able to tell a person or a friend about their day at a carnival or something exciting. We tend to go about our business and relate to those around us without intellectual disabilities. It is a sad thing because people with intellectual disabilites can't help how they are. They are human beings like everyone else and don't need to be left out in such events like these. They should be able to experience typical events also, and be able to share them in their own way.
I think that it was very nice of you to take out a few of your friends to a restaurant whom never been to one before. I'm sure it was a fun and exciting time for them and for you as well. Most importantly, they will never forget you taking them to a restaurant and the time you spent with them. Your friends can hang on to that memory, and look forward to the next one! Thank you for caring. There should be more people in this world like you.

Anonymous said...

People do enjoy hearing of other peoples trips and activities. We should share our pictures and experiences with others. To add to this, I think it is also important that we listen to the experiences of others and look through the pictures others might want to share with us. We might not be interested in a particular activity or event but we can be interested in the person and their experiences and have them share those with us. Also, we should share in the excitement and anticipation of a coming event with them. It is important for us to share our experiences with others but possibly more important for us to listen to theirs. We can bring much joy to another person by allowing them to share pictures with us or tell us about a trip, a party, a day at school, a new toy, etc. What a pleasure it has been for me when a child has chosen me to view a wrinkled, stained photograph of someone special in their life and to see their face light up as they tell me about about their day, their new box of crayons or simply point to their new shoes. When someone shares some of their life with me, I am the one who receives the blessing.

Anonymous said...

I think this blog says so much about the people we are today. I have a cousin who has Downs and she was so exicted about attending my little sisters birthday party. When she showed up and saw my sister and all her friends all dressed up and talking about school i could see in her eyes that all she wanted was to be heard about her experences. When one of my sisters frineds asked her if she wanted glitter sprayed in her hair like the rest of the girls her smile got so big it could have lite the world! Once this one little girl without an intellectual disability made the attempt to make the one child with the intellectual disability feel special and include her in the "girly" activities all the others joined in. For me to witness this was amazing to think that all it took was this one kind hearted little girl to inclued my cousin that all the others would follow in her lead! This was simply amazing!!
~Michele Gallego~

michelle murphy said...

I found this blog to be eye opening for me. I believe that most healthy people take their everyday experiences for granted, myself included. Although I try to stop and smell the roses every now and then, I get caught up in the day to day rat race. After reading This blog I found myself being envious of the way intellectually disabled people look at the world. They, from my outlook, seem to take every day and cherish it, I find that to be so beautiful. We all need to look at our experiences in life in the same way. The world would be such a greater place if we did.

Michelle Murphy, The Exceptional Child class