Having a Voice and the Power of Words

Over at Woodstone Prairie, Maura wrote about the discrimination of the mentally disabled, as well as the common word usages in the same category used flippantly to describe negative attributes.  Interestingly, both just recently were part of a conversation as well as an experience today (again).

I was gone for the weekend with four of my children getting to enjoy the camaraderie of fellow unschoolers at a weekend camp at a sound on the coast of North Carolina here in the state we live.  It’s a group called Families Learning Together that has been around for a while here in North Carolina, and for which I have become a part over the past few years.  They have two camps a year:  one in the fall and one in the spring, at various camp locations across North Carolina (usually YMCA types or church camps, etc., where you can rent the entire facility).  They are starting to add a winter gathering.  There are usually around 100 people of all ages and this past weekend, there were four families with children with autism there.

I had a particularly good time connecting with a mother of two, Carissa, in which we enjoyed sharing similar experiences of many attributes of our families being “different”.  One particular conversation I had was about the idea that it’s the mentally disabled that are the most discriminated about strictly for the fact that they really have no voice.  As an example, I brought up the realization that before the Jews were persecuted during the Holocaust, all the disabled people were killed.  But nobody talks about that, or for them.  Though it was horrendous what happend to the Jews, they have a voice to be remembered and seek consolation or vindication.  Anyway . . . I agree with Maura on this point.

And, just this morning, during an early morning scripture study class, some of the youth referred to each other or themselves as “retards”.  I like to take the opportunity, particularly with this age group, to create awareness on their part, as most of this language is just said without realizing what they are actually saying.  I’ll say something like, “You know, one should think about the words they use, because they may be in the presence of someone who has a mentally retarded child.”  Since they all know about Adam, they usually quickly apologize, and I hope, find more awareness.  I think change begins with the youth . . .

I try not to take it personally, but educate.  But, sometimes, it is tiring to always be in that role.  So, again, I’m there with Maura on this one.

2 responses to “Having a Voice and the Power of Words

  1. Pingback: Tribe of Autodidacts » Blog Archive » This and That

  2. Your weekend camp sounds wonderful, what a great way to really connect with other homeschool families!

    Thank you for linking to my blog, the continued acceptance of discrimination and ridicule of people with “brain differences” (as M describes it) is something the weighs heavily on my heart. Unfortunately, as you point out, historically they have had virtually no voice. Thankfully it looks like that may be starting to change due to the work of some powerful self-advocates. There is still a very long way to go though, isn’t there? 🙁