Tuesday 1 May 2012

We're All Different and that's OK


I usually use this blog to celebrate writing - fiction, drama, poetry, my own and others. But I'm making an exception today to join in Bloggers Against Disablism Day.

I have worked for and with people with learning disabilities for nearly thirty years. Although we have come a long way since people with learning disabilities were locked in institutions they, and other people, with disabilities still face a lot of discrimination. So I'm delighted to be part of BADD which is a great way to tackle disablism.

A few years ago I gave an assembly at my daughters primary school about people with learning disabilities. I told the children (aged 5-9) We are all Different, We are all Equal, We are All Special. I explained that sometimes people with disabilities weren't treated equally or seen as being as special as others. It maybe a bit cliched but children really do have an innate sense of justice, and straight away they all recognised how unfair this is.

I told them that all it takes is understanding and a bit of adjustment from those of us who do not have disabilities, and everyone can shine. I used the children's story "Amelia Bedelia" to illustrate my point. Amelia Bedelia is hired to be a housekeeper.  She is keen to do well and impress her new employers, but when they go out and leave her a list of chores she is a little puzzled. "Draw the curtains," the list says, so after thinking about it, she draws them a picture of the curtains. "Dust the furniture", and she covers it with dust. She interprets "Change the towels," literally and cuts them to make them different. "Put out the lights," really stumps her till she decides, like washing, the lightbulbs need hanging out on the washing line. Her employers return and are horrified by her actions. They are on the point of sacking her until they smell her delicious lemon meringue pie. When they realise how wonderful the pie is, they ask her to stay. They are clever enough to work out how to ask her to do things her way. When she is told "Undraw the curtains" "Undust the furniture."  she gets it right. In other words, instead of expecting her to be like them, they celebrate her uniqueness and adapt their behaviour to match hers.

It's a simple message. Instead of letting disability be a problem,  we need to see people for who they are and make the necessary adjustments to ensure they can fully participate. The kids totally got it.  Why is it so difficult for grown ups?

If you would like to do something about disablism you might want to start by checking out these fine bloggers: Benefit Scrounging Scum (Kaliya Franklin) - shortlisted for the Orwell Prize; Diary of a Benefit Scrounger (Sue Marsh); Where's the Benefit? (Collective).


Gary Miller said...

Children are empty vessels eager and willing to be filled. If only we could fill those vessels with the things that matter most in life then perhaps, just perhaps, they'll grow up to change the moral outrages being committed today.

Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

Cheers! :-)

Ruth Madison said...

"Why is it so difficult for grownups?" Indeed! I wonder that too.

Criquaer said...

Can just imagine the children's responses.

Simple message, beautifully recounted.

Cheers! %)

Never That Easy said...

Literature, especially with young children, is such a vital tool in creating opportunities for understanding. Good post!

John Wiswell said...

I think it can be more difficult for grown-ups without experience because they're less mentally plastic. Kids can pick up habits and adapt more easily most of the time; even in sympathetic adults, it's easy for them to get stuck in a harmful method that they think is kind. It's something I struggle with, and I've got more health problems than would fit in a comment box.

GirlWithTheCane said...

I remember hearing "Amelia Bedelia" when I was a young child, but had totally forgotten what it was about. What a wonderful story - I think it will become a standard birthday gift for the children in my life. :)