Friday, October 28, 2011

Those with Special Needs Are Not Burdens

My daughter's high school English class had a discussion about people with special needs after reading, "Of Mice and Men." The question posed to the class was whether or not people with disabilities are burdens.

My very tender-hearted daughter, who spent 2 years in middle school working with kids with special needs, was astonished to find so many in her class who believe those with disabilites really don't deserve to live. One girl was adamant that people with disabilites are like animals. Another girl believed they shouldn't be cared for. Others agreed that people with disabilites are complete burdens on everyone. My daughter was relieved that one young man pointed out that everyone in that room was a burden.

My guess is that none of those kids have ever worked with nor been around someone with special needs. How sad to have such a narrow view.

Are we raising our kids to see those who have challenges as nothing more than animals? Are we so focused on perfection that we relegate those who are "imperfect" to sub-human status? Do we consider those with challenges as burdens?

We like to think we've come so far when it comes to discrimination, but the truth is, there's still plenty of prejudice and ignorance to go around when it comes to people with special needs.

Let's teach our children the truth. We all have challenges. Some may be more visible than others, but we all have them. Let us be kind and and merciful when we encounter those who have disabilites. After all, however merciful we are to others, for whatever reason, is how merciful God will be with us.


Kathryn Packer Roberts said...

What a great post. My older brother was handicapped, not severely, but he was like a 6 yo his entire life (he died 11 years ago when a car hit him). I'm astounded that so many thought people with handicaps shouldn't even be allowed to live. How very sad.

I think of all the people my brother influenced. There were so many people I had never met before that showed up at his funeral, just because he sat by them on the public bus on the way to serve at Welfare Square. They told me he was so nice to him. People at church called him the unofficial welcomer because he took it upon himself to greet everyone with a handshake that came in to church. Because of his example, others actually told me they wanted to be better people. It made me so sad when he had a job helping the school janitor at my cousin's middle school and so many kids laughed at pointed at him. Or when his boss--when he worked a fast food job cleaning tables (because he was so proud to have that job and earn money)--was short with him. My brother never once lost his temper unless someone really tried to get on his case. People with disabilities, all kinds, are special people. They can teach us a lot.

Thanks again for this post!

Rebecca H. Jamison said...

My sister has Down Syndrome and autism. She is 35 and has never learned to talk or communicate, except in very basic ways, even though we tried everything. But I know that her life has a purpose. I would be totally different if I didn't have my sister to teach me how to serve and love others.

My daughter has been helping with a special needs mutual in our area. I always feel happy when I go inside the church to pick her up. All the special needs people have such positive outlooks on life (so different from the typical teen.) I think my daughter has learned a lot about gratitude since she's had this calling. It's been such a blessing for me to have the special needs people teach her how to be more positive.

Danyelle Ferguson said...

Thank you for your post,
Rebecca. It's really great timing for me. Just yesterday, my son with autism has a rough, rough night. It started while at dinner at a friend's house, so my hubby took him home. He started to calm down, but later that evening went into a major meltdown. So my friend drove me and the other munchkins home. On the way, my friend's daughter made the comment to my oldest daughter that we should get rid of my son and get a better kid.

I was absolutely astonished and just about speechless (while inside I was furious!) My daughter yelled at her and told her she was rude and that she loved her brother. My friend also pointed out to her daughter that there are plenty of times when the daughter has tantrums and if that was her point of view, she could trade her in for another daughter. I think that made the girl stop and think a bit - or at least I hope it did.

My son has rough days, though usually not to the extreme like yesterday. But like you said, we all have challenges. I pray every day for the people my son works with to be more loving and accepting. People with special needs have just as much to give to our society. I think it's important to remember their friendships and family relationships are valuable and important, too.

Thanks again for sharing this experience. =)

Rebecca Talley said...

Thank you so much for your comments. I think if we are advocates and take opportunities to teach those around us maybe we can make a difference. I also pray that those working with my son will have patience and understanding and see him as a person first.

Danyelle, I'm sorry about your experience. You are such a great mom! Your son is lucky to have the parents he does!