A year ago, I got the chance to go to Camp Unity. There are many reasons why it was one of the best camps I’ve gone to and it wasn’t because of the food or the cabins, but because of the people and the vision that they hold. They aim to create an environment where people with and without disabilities can interact and do activities that don’t exclude the people who may not comprehend what is happening. After going to this camp, it really made me reflect on my own actions, how I treat my sister who is on the Autism Spectrum and how I could change my actions so that I am more inclusive.
My sister is probably one of the smartest people that I know, but I will admit that I am not always the most patient with her. She processes information differently. It’s one of the reasons I believe her to be so intelligent. But it’s because of this that I judge her too quickly at times and become irritated when she doesn’t comprehend something according to my standards when she is understanding information perfectly according to her own standards.
I believe this is one of the major faults that we have as a society. Just because someone may think differently than us or take more time to assess the information they are given, we end up disabling the disabled. Sure, they may be socially awkward and may comprehend things differently than the average person does, but I think we tend to put more weight on the individual’s disability than their ability. This is something that hit me really hard after I finished the camp. Interacting with everyone there made me realize that I could put more faith in my sister because she knows what she’s doing better than I think she does.
This idea can apply to other people with or without disabilities. As a culture, we need to learn to listen more than we talk. This is something my dad says often, and it’s true! If we listened more than we talked, we would learn more, because we are observing rather than focusing on our own opinions. If we listened more than we talked, we would be able to see the abilities of those around us and the gifts that they possess no matter who they are. It’s because of the fact that we are such a selfish culture that we exclude the people we should include.
In addition to listening, I think we need more patience. Sure, some of us are more gifted with patience than others, but if we all had more patience and listened more, then maybe an environment like the one at Camp Unity could be an all-around reality rather than something that only happens during a three-day-long camp.
People who have interacted with someone with disabilities probably know what I’m talking about. The individual might not understand what you are trying to convey initially, whether it’s instructions to a game or an explanation of the function of the alveolus, but if we had the patience to explain so that they understand, we could include the excluded instead of brushing the person off as being incapable and thus using their disability as an excuse to not include them.
Overall, there are a lot of things that we could change to make our world a better place, but if we start with something as simple as being patient and listening, then maybe changing the world for the better won’t be as daunting of a task.