The misinformation surrounding people with disabilities
By Jamison Schroeder
It was any other normal day waiting for my parents to come home from an IEP meeting with my brother. The IEP meetings were a norm in our household, every so often my parents would have to go out and have a discussion with the school about my brother Andrew’s progress.
I hear the garage door close and in come my parents, my mom in a fury over the meeting. Something told me this had been no ordinary IEP. Once the storm had calmed it was storytime. Apparently my parents were told by the woman who runs the IEP meetings that my brother would never, at any point in his life, have the ability to talk properly and coherently. This meeting was four years ago and the progress my brother has made is inspiring.
Fourteen years ago, my brother Andrew was born with Down Syndrome. For the last 14 years he has been one of the biggest inspirations in my life and has introduced me to a world I otherwise may have never found. The disrespect towards people with disabilities is a disappointing worldwide trend and one that can be stopped with ease.
My belief is that the disrespect stems from a misunderstanding among most people in the world. The fact is that many do not come into contact or see people with disabilities on a daily basis the same way I have for 14 years. There are also the people who are just flat out ignorant and refuse to believe there is a problem with treating people with disabilities different from anyone else.
It is hard to be understanding all the time when people use derogatory terms constantly, whether it is to describe their friends, an adult or even someone with disabilities.
The world is run in a way where the words that are harmful towards people with disabilities are not seen in the same light as the racial slurs that people are constantly called out on using today. It seems as if the amazing individuals, who just so happen to have to deal with something that is out of their control, are simply not seen as people to many who do not have to deal with those same problems.
My brother is one of the smartest, most caring people you will ever meet, and it has been amazing to see how kind many of his classmates have been to him throughout all his years in school. A younger sibling getting bullied is something no older sibling wants to see, unless at their own hands of course, and my brother having a disability made him so much more vulnerable. The biggest thing that has helped is how involved Drew has been, thanks in large part to my parents who are constantly trying to keep him integrated.
He is a student manager of the middle school basketball team and is even a part of the incredible club, Best Buddies. People know Drew as “The Mayor” because of just how social he is despite him not being able to talk in the same manner as someone without Down Syndrome.
Drew is constantly finding ways to get into things that we try to hide from him, whether it is using a makeshift key to get into a locked room or pulling a chair over to climb on top of the counter.
He is one of the most capable people anyone will meet and just proves how, despite their disabilities, they are just like any other kid or adult.
This doesn’t just apply to people with Down Syndrome either. Through Best Buddies I have gotten to know students with a whole array of disabilities and they are some of the most hopeful and inspiring people you can meet. I still talk to most of them even while I am in college and they are miles away. Many of them just want to be involved and treated as if they aren’t any different from you and me, which they aren’t.
The only difference, in my opinion, is that they care more about others and are nicer than most anyone else, they just want to enjoy life. They go through the same problems we go through whether it is relationship troubles, schoolwork stress, or just being annoyed with our parents. So why treat them as if they’re different? People with disabilities shouldn’t be outcast from society just because they may seem different on the outside because at the end of the day, they’re people too.
This mindset is slowly changing I believe. As our younger generations become more and more tolerant and understanding of others, it is what helps me know that my brother will be in good hands when I am not there to help him out.
As for the IEP meeting gone awry? The woman is no longer working for the school and my brother has made huge strides in his speech, forming sentences to the best of his ability. He has taken the IEP advisor’s insulting demeanor and made it into a challenge, one he is succeeding at incredibly well.