After working for so many years as an SLP, you either quit your profession (because you can’t handle it) or start loving it. Of course, I am in the latter. I have never come across an SLP who is not proud of what he/she does. WE are always proud of our profession, our small achievements and the fact that we are trying to reform the lives of many. Yet, there are situations which makes you vulnerable, sad, and most importantly helpless. You blame the society, parents, yourself but nothing gets any better.
I am sad today. When I got to know that one of my students is depressed, I decided to have a little chat with him. Being a teen with Asperger’s is not easy. He just wants a “normal” life – go to college, fall in love, have a girl friend, get a job, get married, have babies, and spend the rest of his life being loved. This routine of life looks so cliched to us. Like Ranbeer Kapoor says in Yeh Jawani Hai Diwani that I want to fly and etc etc but I don’t want to be settled. Yes, for us being settled is ordinary, boring, and so normal. But there are so many people who wants what we have. A perfect definition of a “normal” life.
I assured him he can have all that when the time is right. I wasn’t sure if I was believing in what I was saying, but I wanted to believe. After 20 minutes of “emotional counselling”, he felt better. I am sure about that because unlike us “normals” he can’t fake emotions to make me happy. Then he made a remark – “disability can’t stop me”. Hell yeah! I should have been proud, instead I was hurt. Why the term “disability”? Who told him that? Why a definition? When we never say “a student with normal behavior/intelligence”, why say “a student with a disability/autism/ADHD”? Why can’t a definition be limited to professionals? Are we trying to educate them or segregate them?
The moment he used the term disability, I couldn’t help but counter his view.
“So what’s a disability? a physical or mental condition that limits a person’s movements, senses, or activities. Then I have a painting disability! Something in my brain gives a wrong command when I try to paint. My husband has a memory disability. He can’t remember anything!”
He was confused. That wasn’t the traditional definition explained to him. So he asked,
“that means I don’t have a disability?”
“That means everybody has a disability because everybody’s brain is not equipped to do everything. You can’t do certain things. I accept that not because you have Asperger’s syndrome. But because I can’t do certain things myself. Just that nobody has done enough research to diagnose me”
I could see that he felt better. Definitions/diagnosis helps us understand the condition/characteristics better, but not the person. You want to be a good SLP, then you have to understand the characteristics. If you want be an excellent SLP, then you have to understand the person.
“Individuals with disability” – Ah, we all are!!! Never using that term ever again for sure!