Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Perception.

My brother is a grown man with severe developmental disabilities. He is about 6'5", tall and without the normal personal space boundaries that most adults possess.

My Dad with my handsome brother in 2002. 
A couple weeks ago, Mike and I took David to see Yanni in concert. David may have many limitations; but when music is playing he soars. David can conduct an orchestra and keep time with the music like any maestro. He amazes me. He also shares his joy with everyone around him. Since David is non-verbal, he has to touch someone--typically by tapping them on the shoulder. Mike and I always keep him in-check; allowing him to interact and socialize to an extent that it is appropriate. At a concert, strangers and Yanni-lovers enjoy David.

But in the elevator after the concert, an old lady had a hissy fit. David tapped her on the arm and she immediately panicked; as if David was trying to accost her in a crowded elevator. And I get it to a point: we were in the city, in a parking garage and David is a giant. But, then again, he was clearly with us and clearly there were about 10 other people there.

Mike and I laughed it off; another couple in the elevator joined in our mockery of the woman; because well, it was just absurd. Of course, David was not trying to attack her.

But, I know that not everyone believes people with special needs are safe. So many people characterize people with special needs as monsters, as dangerous, as scary, as unequal to you and I.

This perception is a lie, based on fear. My brother drives me crazy: he is a lot to handle. But, he is a human being. God loves him exactly as much as he loves me. He loves him as much as he has loved every President of the United States and every celebrity on the cover of a magazine. He loves David as much as the homeless woman who lives on the streets and the Queen who lives in the castle.

Maybe you saw the Philadelphia Inquirer piece about a Chester County principal slinging around disparaging and offensive comments about special needs students; one student in particular, who he referred to as a "manipulator" and a "psychopath." Read the article, it is, well, shocking.

There is so much I can say about this--and maybe my judgement is clouded by my brother. But, if my brother was honestly a danger to himself or other people, I'd want the principal to do something constructive. The comments of the Principal: characterizing students with IEP's as the "guilty parties," makes my blood boil.

A grown man is calling a child a psychopath. A grown man who works for the very students he leads, is denying a child fair and equal access to a quality education. A grown man.

It is all disgusting. We raise our children to trust their elders. It is a bunch of nonsense: being an elder is not an age. Being an elder is  being responsible. How did the Principal serve any of his students if his solution to a special needs student was to berate him behind his back? And because someone has a psychological issue they are automatically a psychopath? They are automatically dangerous?

It is nonsense. It is a lie. Someone who is bipolar does not automatically become a mass murderer. A child who struggles with behaving appropriately is not automatically a criminal. The job of that Principal was to protect all his students. If he thought the boy who he characterized as a "psychopath," really required further help: then he should have been his advocate. If he thought the boy was threatening people: then he should have proactively protected those threatened. Texting your buddy or sending around insulting emails is the work of teenagers and children: it is not the job of a Principal.

And as for my brother and the old lady; you should know we corrected David and explained to him that he is a big guy and we know he means well. I also apologized to the woman, who looked at me like I was his accomplice. And so be it; she was just an old lady in an elevator; she was not the Principal of a school.





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