Love and Advocacy

15 Feb

For years I believed that love at first sight was simply a feel good story, that nothing of the sort could ever happen to real life people in real life situations.

Then it started happening to me.

To be clear, this “love at first sight” phenomenon occuring in my life is not even remotely comparable to the Cinderella-esque notion purported in most fanciful love stories. The people that I see and immediately love are rarely beautiful (by worldly standards), they are never sporting tiaras or singing while riding their horses and weilding swords. The people I’m refering to often have what many would describe as “broken” bodies. Many of them aren’t able to speak in such a way that can be heard easily, and most often I notice them while riding public transportation rather than great stallions.

I realize that love is a strong word but in all honesty it is the only word that I can use to describe what happens inside of me when I meet people with intellectual disabilities. It’s this soft stirring that reminds me that I am on the right path in life – that what I’ve been doing with my time and what I am striving for in my hopes to become a “special education” teacher does make sense.

The stares are what hurt the most. I can’t even begin to count the number of times I walk in public places with my friends with disabilities and people look at us and straight up gawk – some of the gawking takes the form of disgust (no lies), some the form of “who let this person out it public?”, others insert a smile and continue on with their lives. Once in a while people will talk to us but the conversation is always directed at me, even when my friend with a disability is the person being questioned…ie – “Did she like the show?” Other times people will approach me and say something along the lines of “How nice of you to take him/her out. I think it’s really great what people like you do for these people.”

Despite how unbelievably frustrating statements like these are, they are almost always awesome opportunities for advocacy – ways to provide living proof that people with disabilities are actually human beings. It doesn’t take much to divert the attention to my friends with disabilities; to demonstrate that though they are in wheelchairs, holding my hand, etc they are more than capable of communicating and are actually thrilled at the prospect (like most of us are when people actually make a point of talking to us.)

So what does this all mean? The “love” I’ve been describing in this post directly translates to advocacy; most often for those that can not advocate on their own. I believe that advocacy for our students is unbelievably important and for this reason I will continue to work towards fostering a society that is both open and receptive towards people with intellectual disabilities. Any increase in openness attained at this point in history will directly translate to an easier life for the students with disabilities that I will most certainly befriend in the not so distant future. Until then, bring on the wide-mouthed gape…I’m ready for you.

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2 Responses to “Love and Advocacy”

  1. Patricia Cone February 16, 2011 at 4:09 pm #

    I think the best advocacy is the one you are doing already; hanging out with your friends and just being buddies. Living by example is the best way to teach other people how to interact with people with whom they don’t normally interact. Many people don’t know how.

  2. Evan Neibrandt March 1, 2011 at 4:20 pm #

    It’s great to hear you have such a strong passion for people with intellectual disabilities and want to help them! I think that passion is the first step towards becoming an excellent teacher! Good luck!

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