We've all experienced it. The feeling when your stomach hallows out and sinks lower than you knew was even possible, twisting itself into tight, uneasy knots. This feeling, this reaction can be onset by a number of things. Like hearing bad news, finding out you forgot to submit a paper on time or being called on in a lecture hall of two-hundred people. For some, it's nails on a chalkboard, people chewing with their mouth open or the mere sight of a spider. For me? It's hearing conditions used as adjectives.
I will never understand why some feel using conditions to describe someone or something is acceptable. Autism, cancer, and mental retardation; they've affected individuals and families that we all know. It shatters my heart entirely. It's brutal, venomed and callous.
I have witnessed far too many accounts of this dehumanizing misuse of these illnesses. People fail in their meaningless attempts to find another word in their vocabulary to describe someone or something other than, retarded, autistic or cancerous. This level of arrogance is one that I wish would cease immediately, however, is not one that I have the ability to enforce its termination upon anyone. We, all too often, act as if their conditions define them.
Spending just a few minutes with an individual who is living with a disability or illness would completely demolish that mindset. Those who battle cancer, like my aunt Bobbi, are some of the strongest people I've ever come to know. Those who have autism or any intellectual impairment are some of the most genuine, kind-hearted individuals I know and don't even get me started on the families of these wonderful humans.
My sister is the most patient, nurturing and just flat out a loving woman I know. She is so driven and man oh man does she have her head screwed on as tight as it will go. My sensitivity to the usage of these conditions really stemmed from her intolerant mindset toward it. Four years ago, she started working at an Autism Academy which gives children and young adults the opportunity to be educated in an environment that is most beneficial to them.
My sister, an aspiring occupational therapist, was given the privilege of working alongside a number of individuals with a variety of intellectual disabilities. Seeing her compassion and love for these individuals, as well as listening to all her stories, sparked my desire to truly fight for the abolishment of the negative stigmatism they're given and misuse of their condition as adjectives.
I could see the passion and sadness in her eyes when she shared this powerful thought with me. "I can tell you there are far more than their diagnosis titles describes them, and anyone who uses that word to name call someone does not know how truly special this population is."
When you hear someone calling another person cancer or when you hear someone call something or someone autistic or retarded, bring it to their attention. They clearly haven't been told how hurtful those words can mean to absolutely anyone.
These are people. Yes. People with insanely massive hearts, pure souls, and even more beautiful minds. Just because they are different than us doesn't mean we have the right to use conditions in a negative context because, quite frankly, their condition makes them who they are. It makes them powerful. More powerful than I could ever be and I am so thankful to know each and every one of them. They've taught me that there is a certain beauty when you accept and treat others equally. I hope we omit the use of these illnesses in our vocabulary and begin to understand that they don't define that individual. Nor should anything else, for that matter.