Saturday, February 9, 2013

Is Normal Harmful?

I recently read another blogger's take on the world's view of "normal" and "not normal." I have read other people talk about the pros and cons of labels. I want to share my thoughts on the whole thing.

Labels have their uses. If you have a label, you are able to use it to get services, to get ideas on treatments, and basically, to know what to expect at least in an indirect way. Labels can be misused by people in authority, may cause a person to be held back, or be the wrong label. It must be balanced.

What I really want to talk about is normal. Often folks say there is no normal, and they are right but only to a point. Maybe if we said "Typical" instead people would get it better.

When you are raising a child, you know they follow a "typical" path. If they don't, you worry and start asking questions. The doctor will say that there is wiggle room on that typical path but there is also a basic, recognized side path to the main path. Anything beyond that wiggle room is not typical.

Should normal/not normal or typical/not typical guide how people are treated? Yes. And no. The abilities should be recognized and the disabilities need to be acknowledged. You can't set goals for the stars or at the bottom of the ocean for another person.

Ignoring a non typical person's special need doesn't make it go away. Wanting them to be normal, sets them up for failure. While we should help them be as functional as possible, as normal as they are able, we shouldn't expect them to be anything more than they are able to be.

Does that me we don't reach for the stars? Not at all. It means that you set achievable goals and once you get there, reach beyond. You keep doing that until you have gone as close to the stars as you can.

Along that road, you must also allow a person do what they can. You don't hold someone back because of something a doctor said they couldn't do. You keep encouraging them to reach beyond that line. You don't force but encourage. You try hard not to enable a mind set of "I can't because the doctor says..."

The outside world should never assume based on a perceived difference. They shouldn't assume a child will be unruly in a restaurant  just because they have a disability. They should also avoid thinking that a child melting down in a store, is a brat because they don't see a disability. There must be a balance.

Therapists are there to help a child reach their personal "normal," not the normal of the rest of the world. If they forget that, remind them. Doctors can tell you the typical path but not the personal path of the patient. Don't let them fool you, they can't and don't know everything.

People who have never dealt with the issues of the non typical person, shouldn't really have a say in the way they function in the world. The can offer help, ask polite questions and try to learn. They should NEVER judge, assume or offer advice when not asked.

Normal is harmful when used improperly to judge people, to set the path of someone, or to claim someone who is not typical is lessor because of it. Never should normal be placed as better or more. One is no less or more disposable than the other. It is very important to hold to the idea that different is not bad and has it's own things to offer the world.