We regularly have folks visit our Light & Power class which includes adults with disabilities. Recently a friend visited from Canada. After attending the class and then interviewing some class members, he indicated that there was something different about the way we did things.
I asked, “What did you observe that was different?”
He thought a moment and then responded, “Light & Power is radically normal. People are treated and interacted with like any other adult would be interacted with.”
I embrace that characterization. Many ministries look far from normal in terms of interactions among adults. But the question to ask is, “Does this reflect who adults with disabilities actually are, or are we projecting on them who we perceive them to be?” You see, the lack of typical interactions is probably a reflection of misunderstanding of who people with disabilities are.
If I had a son and raised him to act in an immature manner, that is how he would act. That is, if the culture around a person consistently and persistently indoctrinates a person to be a certain way, they will likely reflect that programmed outcome, whether that outcome is positive, appropriate or desirable. I would argue that our culture almost relentlessly socializes people, particularly people with intellectual disabilities to be a particular way which is not necessarily a desirable way. When people then become who we have socialized them to be, we then say that is who they always were, not who they were socialized into becoming. If we believe that, then people can be socialized into becoming something different. Adults with intellectual disabilities, for example, needn’t behave or be treated in a juvenile, age inappropriate manner. Once again, if this is the case, it once again reflects the biases or perceptions of the socializer not who the people themselves were.
So who are you socializing persons with disabilities to be?
How are you socializing the social environment to be toward persons with disabilities?
Are you reinforcing the idea that persons with disabilities are somehow different than other people?
Are we reinforcing that persons with disabilities are so different that we cannot help but reinforce these perceived differences?
No, my friend. We need to be radically normal in our interactions with persons with disabilities. Don’t support the pejorative perceptions about who people are that society tries to indoctrinate us into believing. Romans 12:2 really applies here.
Step back and reflect and you may need to renew your mind.