I hear a chorus of sighs! What on earth is she rattling on about this time? Well, I’ll tell you. I have been of a certain opinion for a very long time and last night really hammered the reality home in no uncertain terms and it really is time for a massive shift in perceptions. Yesterday Nikita appeared in a production of King Lear with her old classmates from her special school. They’d started when she was still at the school and they were keen that she should still involved as it was for the Shakespeare Festival, an important event for schools all over the country to show their Shakespearean performing skills.
She was nervous but performing is her thing so she was happy to be a part of it. There were three schools performing and hers was first, they were deliberately put first so they didn’t have to hang around all evening as a lot of them are on the autistic spectrum and it would have been hard for them.
My very able ‘disabled’ children!
An accomplished performance
As the performers came on stage one by one and introduced themselves along with a great deal of humour I was fascinated to see how their interpretation of Shakespeare would pan out. All of the children had special needs including Nikita so just to stand on a stage in front of so many people is something most of them find very difficult. As the performance started I sat mesmerised at how they had all so skilfully taken on their characters and how excellent their interpretation was. There was a great deal of humour injected into it as well which was wonderful for the likes of me who isn’t a great Shakespeare fan!
So what’s my problem?
OK…..let’s get down to the nitty gritty of this. I have a very real problem with the words disabled, less abled, special needs etc…. I always have but my feelings on the subject intensified a couple of years ago when I collected Nikita from a ‘Special Olympics’ event she’d been involved in and, by the way, won four gold medals! She was upset and I was trying to get to the bottom of why. Eventually she told me that she didn’t like being ‘disabled’ and going to special school. I could totally relate to how she must be feeling so I asked her a question.
I mused gently to her that she was very talented at sport where I’m not. She was excellent at mimicry, I’m not. She’s brilliant at netball, keeping a hoola hoop spinning etc…etc….the list was very long and very comprehensive. I then pointed out to her what I’m good at that she struggles with. I then looked at her and asked “So….am I disabled because I can’t do all the things you can do or are you disabled because you can’t do all the things I can do?”. She looked a bit puzzled as I watched her brain process the information. Eventually she said “Errrrr….I suppose when you put it like that…..?”. Point made.
How it feels
Just for a second imagine how it feels to be labelled as ‘dis’ abled. In other words….unable, no ability. This is what I call a real label, autism isn’t a ‘label’, it’s a diagnosis. Cerebral Palsy isn’t a ‘label’, it’s a diagnosis. I believe it’s time to differentiate in real terms exactly what is a ‘label’ and what is a diagnosis. Every single ‘disabled ‘ person I know has a huge amount to offer society, it’s just not being recognised or tapped properly and what’s more they want to give of their best. We need to start enabling our ‘differently abled’ members of society to find and utilise their considerable talents instead of often writing them off.
I have 7 supposedly ‘disabled’ children who are actually all very able in their own unique ways and I have tried hard to encourage them in the areas where they often excel way above most. Being told you are ‘disabled’ can have an incredibly negative effect on a person and can hold them back severely whether it be physical or neurological. I know….I’ve lived with the repercussions with my children and have expended a huge amount of time and energy trying to negate the perception society has of their individual needs and raise their self esteem. If only the same attitude could be extended into society in general we would live in a better and more accepting world where we recognised that everyone has their own unique qualities that can be nurtured, enabling that person to flourish regardless.