Finding ways to love and accept ourselves, as we are, with all the mental variations of wellness and illness, might help reshape our world into one with custom seats where everyone gets first class treatment.
Andy was a high school special education teacher in Hawaii. (At that time, Special Ed. was sometimes referred to as “Real Special Ed.” or “Behavioral Special Ed.”)
Teachers of “Real Special Ed.” were trained to work with kids who were born with conditions like Cerebral Palsy, Down Syndrome, and certain cases of Autism. The Behavioral Special Ed. kids that Andy worked with were dealing with parental neglect and abandonment, drug addiction, family trauma and certain cases of Autism. Behavioral Special Ed. was approached with the goal of helping these kids find their way to be in the world.
Nowadays, we have even more designations describing people’s mental abilities and the hope is that more knowledge will turn the tide so the world makes room for acceptance of ALL the variations of our human brains. That’s the hope but not always the reality.
A friend’s daughter has dyslexia and she turned down extra help that was offered to her throughout high school and college. She was raised to believe that dyslexia was not bad or an illness but only a part of herself that was different from some of her peers. Being fully supported and accepted by her family, she found more empowerment working with her condition her own way and not receiving extra help. We are all experimenting in new models of dealing with mental health.
Another friend is a genius artist and inventor. He was challenged by his wife after he lost his temper when volunteers on his project were tired and wanted to go home at midnight, after working in difficult conditions all day. He was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome. He was seriously overjoyed to finally, in his fifties, understand himself more clearly. For him, the diagnosis led to understanding and loving himself more.
Brendan, at 6′ 5″, doesn’t fit easily in airplane seats. When he asked for a bulkhead seat, the employee told him he needed to file for a “height disability.”
Why are some life situations classified as good, able, positive and approved and others as bad, disabled, negative and disapproved? It seems like it’s all a matter of fitting or not fitting into the seats that have been premade for us, without taking into account all the shapes and sizes of human beings. Finding ways to love and accept ourselves, as we are, with all the mental variations of wellness and illness, might help reshape our world into one with custom seats where everyone gets first class treatment.
You can also read this article in my column in my local newspaper the Taos News.