Friday, April 15

The Invisible Barrier

Socialization is a highly valued skill. Getting along, being chummy, making small talk. Those who don’t have the social graces are at an disadvantage. They are labeled antisocial, misfits, aloof. There is concern when a person prefers to be alone.

Society rewards mediocrity and views original thinking as suspect and dangerous. Instead of seeing the value of someone who can focus and see things in new ways, society marginalizes them. The outcasts and artists of the world who are wired differently than “normal” people have a hard time fitting in and those with a mental disability have it worse. The non conformist at least can figure out the rules of road of normal social interactions but those with ASD ( autism spectrum disorder) ADD or other disabilities don’t even know how to read the map. They end up being greatly misunderstood.

No one ever says to someone with a visible physical handicap, “Oh you’re just lazy.” “You can work, there’s nothing wrong with you.” but it is said plenty to those with an invisible disability. It’s easy to imagine blindness or not being to walk. Injury or simply closing ones eyes can give one an idea but imagining the world of someone with a mental disability requires more effort. Spend a whole day not making eye contact with others. Imagine being in a room full of foreigners and you don’t speak their language. Completely lose your temper over some stupid little thing. That might give you a better idea of the world of someone who can’t figure out why they don’t fit in. Phrases like “try harder”, “If you would only apply yourself” or “you’re not paying attention” just aggravates the frustration from both sides. How can anyone who clearly looks ok not be able to do these things? Are they faking it or are just lazy? When people remark that I seem to be normal I dare them to spend a week with me and gain a different opinion.

Everything from dyslexia, hyperactivity to autism are seen as some kind of defect, a deviation from normal and those afflicted are to be tossed aside as broken. This is society tossing out the diamond because they don’t recognize the value. Different gives humanity geniuses: discoveries in science, high art, classical music. Just look at Beethoven, Newton, DaVinci. People who were antisocial, irascible, stubborn and singularly focused on their subject of expertise.

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