Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Mixed messages

Sometimes my brain feels like it's going to burst from trying to make sense of the mixed messages I read every day about disability.

Today I was working on the next science roundup for the BLOOM magazine. Here are a few headlines:

On the one hand:

A child's disability benefits family and society, parents say

On the other hand:

Risk of violence almost quadrupled for disabled children, report finds (i.e. my child is almost four times more likely to be the victim of violence than a typical child, based on data from 17 studies in five high-income countries)


Isolation strongest predictor of depression in youth with special needs


Study questions value of inclusion for youth with autism

No wonder it's hard for the general public to understand what it means to raise a child with disability or to live with disability.

In other media news, an Australian government inquiry is looking into the practice of sterilizing disabled people, which is legal in that country. A briefing paper by Human Rights Watch on forced sterilization of girls and women with disabilities gives a picture of the practice internationally.

And while pondering this, we read great reviews of the film The Sessions, about the true story of a man who relied on an iron lung to breathe and hired a sex surrogate to help him lose his virginity (let us know your thoughts if you've seen it -- and an important question: are there male sex surrogates for women with disabilities, or surrogates for gays with disabilities? We know men with disabilities are more likely to have romantic partners and get married than disabled women).  

In other news: An Israeli entrepreneur has created a cardboard wheelchair made out of less than $9 worth of recycled cardboard, plastic bottles and recycled tires. This could make mobility affordable to disabled people in developing countries.  

And a BLOOM reader told me about an incredible story of how Westjet employees bent over backwards to help a family whose daughter with Down syndrome refused to board a connecting flight due to anxiety. This included putting the family up for a night in a hotel, providing food vouchers, giving the girl a private tour of the plane and allowing her to try out the intercom and choose her own seat.

Sometimes the extremes of compassion and oppression evoked by disability are simply too much for my poor little brain (and heart) to fathom. Louise


Sometimes it is all a bit much, isn't it? It's so hard to "know what to think" sometimes and I just end up going by what I feel.

Those are also the days I tend to consume far too much chocolate and escape into the world of a good book (or really bad TV). Thanks (as always) for sharing, Louise!

Okay. I had to look up sex surrogate! I had never heard of that before. Sex as part of therapy ... hmmmm.

I guess the only comfort in the bewildering mixed messages about disability is that it's much the same in the "able" world -- what to eat, what not to eat, whether computers are good or bad for the childhood brain, etc. etc.! It all makes one crazy! I did just read a wonderful piece about a program in Canada that helps typical children learn how to make friends with their disabled peers, as opposed to the other way around. I'll try to find the link if you haven't already seen it!

Hi Louise,

I sometimes have to scream or hibernate because of all the mixed messages and people in this world who think they are the 'boss' of someone that lives in a group home. I am not liked by some of these workers because I give people like your son too much choice, laugh with him and call him friend.

I have seen The Sessions. It was really well done, and Helen Hunt is going to win an Oscar. As I watched I wondered if the movie was more about her than him. And the other people around him, hmmm? I appreciated the language used and that he was shown as a true human being who loved, ached and had real desires.

I provided this service once for a couple and quickly realized after my first training session, it wasn't for me.

Westjet is wonderful! I have flown with families many times who have used them, and they really appreciate humankind. They are nice people who choose too extend that to their customers. I know to get hired, it is a personal interview, you have to know somebody that works there already and your personality hands in to if you get a job or not.

Kindness goes a long way, even if you don't always see it, it's contagious!