Photographs by Laurie @ Horizons Photography

October 27, 2011

inside the shell

"If you have to judge people, judge them based on what they can do, not on what they cannot.  Judge them based on who they are, not who they aren't.  Otherwise, you're judging based on your own shortcomings."
-- Anonymous

I have been reading a lot this week about disabilities in kids, and one common theme... no matter the 'disability' there is a mind beneath the shell that understands, feels and hopes and dreams. The more we move into the digital age the more we are learning about the inner workings of the mind and the amazing things that are happening there. On 60 minutes this past Sunday they did a show about Steve Jobs and as a segment to the show they talked about how the ipad is now being used to help kids speak using apps. They are discovering a whole variety of talents and feelings and thoughts that have for years been locked behind the wall of autism or other 'disabilities'.

The whole discussion has made me think really hard about the concept of communicating, and how those who cannot put words to their thoughts are thought of as 'less' or 'stupid'. If a person from China comes to Canada for the first time with no english and cannot speak english people tend to talk loudly to them, or assume that they are stupid because they can't communicate to them. As 'communicators' we think of ourselves as above those who cannot communicate.

I remember the fear I felt when I arrived in Austria, the terror that someone would try to speak to me in German, knowing that I couldn't understand them, or talk to them. It got worse when I did understand them and still couldn't put together a grammatically correct sentence to save my life. I knew what I wanted to say, I had opinions and sometimes words of advice, but because I could not properly communicate I was disregarded. Is it not the same thing for a child who cannot talk?

I have been guilty of this myself, I assume Josh won't know something because he can't speak, I tend to do more for him because he can't communicate to me that he can do it. I am shocked when he says something that makes me realize that he remembers something or knows something that I wouldn't have dreamed he knew. At times I have actually asked Tim 'how did he know that?', as if in some way he is stupid because he can't put words to his thoughts.

Do I wish with all my heart that Josh could talk to me the way that other kids talk to their parents? Do I wish he could go to the play ground and play with the other kids normally without fear that they might try to talk to him? Do I wish he didn't struggle so much with forming words and certainly sentences? Of course, but have I overlooked his mind? Have I overlooked his thoughts and feelings, subconsciously thinking he was 'less'? God forgive me but I have.