I had an interesting discussion with a family member who was visiting yesterday about whether or not we felt ‘normal’. We both agreed that we felt anything but! We felt that being normal was seen in society as being the only thing that was acceptable or made you worth something to others. We had both struggled with this concept for some years. I told her about my blog post “People don’t fit in boxes” and she said that the defining moment for her was to understand that ‘normal’ means the majority but the majority does not mean ‘good’ ‘acceptable’ or ‘right’.
Let’s take the example of – it’s normal for 18-20 year olds to go out at the weekend and drink copious amounts of alcohol until they are very drunk and then stagger home. I know plenty of young adults for which this is true. But is it good, acceptable or right?
Once we realise that being normal is actually not something to spend a lot of time and effort aspiring to, then we can give ourselves the space to find out who we really are.
When working or volunteering with people with ASD or learning disabilities my purpose is to find out who they are, not to ‘normalise’ them (Gosh I do remember having to write an essay on normalisation, which was all the rage in my teacher training days…ugh). I have read accounts from teenagers with Asperger’s for example trying to attain some access into that ‘normality’ that they think will solve a lot of their problems. (Luke Jackson, Joshua Muggleton for example) In that context the problem is with those so called ‘normal’ people…why can’t they see the person with ASD as a person that is worth something as they are? A little effort and understanding is needed on the ‘normal’ side.
My teenage daughter has been volunteering with me at our church group since she was 12. She and my son have been brought up to see people with disabilites as valuable people that deserve the attention and effort to get to know them. It makes me pleased to hear her talk about Asperger’s friends at college whose company she enjoys as much as her other freinds. And yet, she is not normal either! She doesn’t fit into boxes, and I am so proud that she has learned to be herself.
My friend, who has Down’s Syndrome and I go out for coffee every now and again. She makes me laugh and we chat about our common interests and we enjoy our friendship. It is a mutual thing. How I would love to see young people especially, forge those kinds of friendships in their lives. I believe that bullying and many other of society’s ‘normal’ ills might be lessend by it.