The Ability In Dis-Ability

The Ability In Dis-Ability

"Normal" is just a myth.
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I am going to assume that most of you probably know someone or know of someone who has a disability. Whether it’s a physical, developmental, or mental disability, we’ve heard of the struggles that people with disabilities go through, and mostly, it’s because of some inspirational thing that they’ve done. Or maybe there was someone at your school who you saw eating at the table with all the “special” kids. The point is, we know the definition of a disability. Google defines a disability as “a physical or mental condition that limits a person's movements, senses, or activities.” But I do not think we know what it actually means for an individual to have a disability.

To have a disability means that you may communicate in a different way from everyone else. To have a disability does not mean that what you have to say should be any less valued than what others have to say. Having a disability means that you may think differently than the 20 other people in your class. Having a disability does not mean that the way you think and your way of problem solving is the “wrong way” or that you are “being stupid.” To have a disability is really the exact opposite of the connotations we put on that word. What it means to have a disability is to have far more abilities than the world could ever label you as having. It means that you break the mold that society labels as the lie called “normal” which they try to force on everyone.

These are things that seem to be a stigma in our culture. We treat those who have disabilities as if the standards that we hold for them should be lower than those without disabilities. But really, people with and without disabilities are more alike than different. We’re all human beings. We all have abilities. We all want to have connections with our own group of friends and family. We all want to be supported. We don’t want to be limited by the standards people put on us based on face-value. We want people to believe in us. We want people to acknowledge our existence. And we don’t want to be written off as failures just because our way of doing things is different from the norm.

As a culture, we’ve changed what it means to be different into having a bad connotation. You like a different sports team? Well, I guess we can’t be friends anymore. What?! You’re voting for so-and-so?! I’m deleting you from my friends list on Facebook! You have different beliefs and values than me? I guess I am obligated to hate you and disagree with every single thing you say. When I say it like this, it sounds kind of weird and quite frankly, entirely ridiculous. But no matter if it’s what we believe or what we think we know about a person, we push that on others. You could almost consider it as the cultural norm of pontificating (although, not everyone is pompous and self-righteous about what they believe).

In my training for working with Wise (an organization that works with job coaches and supported employees), I heard so many sad stories of people who have disabilities not getting the support they needed just because the individual they were seeking help from assumed they knew all about the individual’s abilities, therefore setting the bar too low. Quite frankly, this makes me angry and ashamed because I know I’ve done this before and that it’s a common occurrence in the world today. Overall, it’s something that we need to change.

From my training, I learned a new term for a more positive way of thought and speech. It’s called “Person First Language” and it means exactly what it looks like. You put the person first in how you think and speak of them. You focus on their abilities rather than on how they may be limited. And I believe that this is something that we need to collectively do as a culture. I’ve mentioned this before in another article ("Including the Excluded”) but it’s something that I believe strongly in. It’s the fact that we put too much weight on what an individual (with or without a disability) cannot do that we end up disabling their abilities.

I believe that if we make this small change in the way we think, we’ll discover so much more about the people we interact with on a day to day basis. No one wants to be defined as something they feel they aren’t good at. So don’t do it. We should not be defined and identified by the failures we may have. Therefore, it’s time to change your thinking. It’s time to start thinking and speaking in Person First Language, both for yourself and for everyone else you meet.

Cover Image Credit: Matt McGee

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College As Told By Junie B. Jones

A tribute to the beloved author Barbara Parks.
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The Junie B. Jones series was a big part of my childhood. They were the first chapter books I ever read. On car trips, my mother would entertain my sister and me by purchasing a new Junie B. Jones book and reading it to us. My favorite part about the books then, and still, are how funny they are. Junie B. takes things very literally, and her (mis)adventures are hilarious. A lot of children's authors tend to write for children and parents in their books to keep the attention of both parties. Barbara Park, the author of the Junie B. Jones series, did just that. This is why many things Junie B. said in Kindergarten could be applied to her experiences in college, as shown here.

When Junie B. introduces herself hundreds of times during orientation week:

“My name is Junie B. Jones. The B stands for Beatrice. Except I don't like Beatrice. I just like B and that's all." (Junie B. Jones and the Stupid Smelly Bus, p. 1)

When she goes to her first college career fair:

"Yeah, only guess what? I never even heard of that dumb word careers before. And so I won't know what the heck we're talking about." (Junie B. Jones and her Big Fat Mouth, p. 2)

When she thinks people in class are gossiping about her:

“They whispered to each other for a real long time. Also, they kept looking at me. And they wouldn't even stop." (Junie B., First Grader Boss of Lunch, p. 66)

When someone asks her about the library:

“It's where the books are. And guess what? Books are my very favorite things in the whole world!" (Junie B. Jones and the Stupid Smelly Bus, p. 27)

When she doesn't know what she's eating at the caf:

“I peeked inside the bread. I stared and stared for a real long time. 'Cause I didn't actually recognize the meat, that's why. Finally, I ate it anyway. It was tasty...whatever it was." (Junie B., First Grader Boss of Lunch, p. 66)

When she gets bored during class:

“I drew a sausage patty on my arm. Only that wasn't even an assignment." (Junie B. Jones Loves Handsome Warren, p. 18)

When she considers dropping out:

“Maybe someday I will just be the Boss of Cookies instead!" (Junie B., First Grader Boss of Lunch, p. 76)

When her friends invite her to the lake for Labor Day:

“GOOD NEWS! I CAN COME TO THE LAKE WITH YOU, I BELIEVE!" (Junie B. Jones Smells Something Fishy, p. 17)

When her professor never enters grades on time:

“I rolled my eyes way up to the sky." (Junie B., First Grader Boss of Lunch, p. 38)

When her friends won't stop poking her on Facebook:


“Do not poke me one more time, and I mean it." (Junie B. Jones Smells Something Fishy, p. 7)

When she finds out she got a bad test grade:

“Then my eyes got a little bit wet. I wasn't crying, though." (Junie B. Jones and the Stupid Smelly Bus, p. 17)

When she isn't allowed to have a pet on campus but really wants one:

“FISH STICK! I NAMED HIM FISH STICK BECAUSE HE'S A FISH STICK, OF COURSE!" (Junie B. Jones Smells Something Fishy, p. 59)

When she has to walk across campus in the dark:

“There's no such thing as monsters. There's no such thing as monsters." (Junie B. Jones Has a Monster Under Her Bed, p. 12)

When her boyfriend breaks her heart:

“I am a bachelorette. A bachelorette is when your boyfriend named Ricardo dumps you at recess. Only I wasn't actually expecting that terrible trouble." (Junie B. Jones Is (almost) a Flower Girl, p. 1)

When she paints her first canvas:


"And painting is the funnest thing I love!" (Junie B. Jones and her Big Fat Mouth, p. 61)

When her sorority takes stacked pictures:

“The biggie kids stand in the back. And the shortie kids stand in the front. I am a shortie kid. Only that is nothing to be ashamed of." (Junie B. Jones Has a Monster Under Her Bed, p. 7)

When she's had enough of the caf's food:

“Want to bake a lemon pie? A lemon pie would be fun, don't you think?" (Junie B. Jones Has a Monster Under Her Bed p. 34)

When she forgets about an exam:

“Speechless is when your mouth can't speech." (Junie B. Jones Loves Handsome Warren, p. 54)

When she finds out she has enough credits to graduate:

“A DIPLOMA! A DIPLOMA! I WILL LOVE A DIPLOMA!" (Junie B. Jones is a Graduation Girl p. 6)

When she gets home from college:

"IT'S ME! IT'S JUNIE B. JONES! I'M HOME FROM MY SCHOOL!" (Junie B. Jones and some Sneaky Peaky Spying p. 20)

Cover Image Credit: OrderOfBooks

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It's 2019 And Mental Health Needs To Be Taken As Seriously As Physical Health

Things may be really hard for a while and a mental health problem may never completely go away, but you can learn to manage it; If you're looking for a sign to keep living, this is it.

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Trigger warning: suicide.

Let's say you're having a bad day. Your body feels fatigued, anxious thoughts run on a loop in your head, and it feels like there is a literal dark storm cloud hovering above that prevents you from feeling, at least, OK. The ideal solution would be to take a sick day so you can go home and recuperate, right? Well, that isn't always possible due to the stigma that exists around mental health in which you would be frowned upon to take the day off if your physical health is fine. Depending on where you work/go to school/have responsibilities, there might not even be a policy in place concerning mental health days which leaves you stuck and feeling awful.

There's a lot of hustle and bustle that goes on these days. It's quite easy for the stress to build up, and if there's too much of it, it can have negative impacts on both your physical and mental health. So why isn't it taken more seriously? I think part of it stems from the "take initiative and work hard every day" ideology within our society. If someone falls behind, they're seen as lazy, worthless, and a burden on society. However, if someone busts their butt every day, they are praised for these efforts, yet everyone seems to scratch their head in confusion when stress catches up with that same person and they too fall behind.

This problem is only amplified when mental health problems come into play. Methods of treatment like therapy and medication isn't always an option since it could not be covered by their insurance/they don't have insurance and can't afford it, they lack resources, there's a possibility of being misdiagnosed and the problem is brushed off by physicians, there's judgment from their family/peers, etc. This only allows for the problems to continue and possibly even get worse as time goes on which could be sparked by the political climate, climate change, national issues, and more.

If these problems go on long enough, they could develop suicidal tendencies within a person. They get to a point where life feels so hopeless that they feel they simply cannot go on. The stigma needs to change now because people's wellbeing and lives are at stake.

If you or someone you know are dealing with these problems, the National Suicide Hotline is 1-800-273-8255 and there is a texting Crisis Lifeline that can be reached by texting TALK to 741-741. Buzzfeed wrote an article that explains what you can expect when calling a lifeline.

Lastly, I just want to remind you that you deserve to be safe and happy, but you are not a game show host and do not have to be happy 100% of the time. Your feelings are valid and it's OK to not be OK. Things may be really hard for a while and a mental health problem may never completely go away, but you can learn to manage it. If you're looking for a sign to keep living, this is it.

As the great Bob Ross once said, "It's a good day to be alive."

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