I’ve never been one to swear… in fact, unless I truly can’t think of a more fitting rhyme in an otherwise light-hearted poem, I can’t say that I do at all. Every once in a while I’ll scare myself by having a dream where I uncontrollably scream a swear word at my mom (who, for the record, probably wouldn’t mind, in actuality). Yep. That’s me. The girl who’s so sensitive that “losing it” and “snapping” would mean swearing at someone. I really live on the edge, I tell you.
But there was a time, oh, maybe in late middle/early high school that I used a word much more discriminatory than a little dirty language. I used one that hurt people. You know word I mean- it starts with an r, and I won’t type it, let alone say it, these days. I don’t think I ever really “learned” or was educated on the sensitive meaning of that word, but at some point in high school, I put effort into cleaning up my language in general. Being that I didn’t really swear, I meant things like saying that things suck. It’s just not necessary, and it can drag people down. I want my words, all of them, to lift people up. The r-word, while I didn’t know it was offensive, certainly wasn’t lifting anyone up, so I dropped it.
As I got older and gained the self awareness (which, I must add, as I often do, that my self awareness does not really extend beyond the computer screen) to learn more about my nature and my ways, I have subsequently learned how truly hateful that word can be and how close to home it hits.
For example, on a funcitonal IQ test, I score about 70. This means that in daily life, I function like a person who has mild intellectual disability would. This means, in some cases, people might mistake me for such a person. I won’t go into detail, but it happens frequently (You went to college?! or You live alone?! or You drive?!).
Right or wrong, appropriate or not, services for people with ASD are frequently lumped together with services for people with ID. I intermix with these people. I see this as a good thing. I have so much to learn from them, as I do from all people.
So, when a “hot new movie” comes out and it uses the r-word and makes fun of people with Down Syndrome, yes, it hits close to home. And, who’s to say that in twenty years folks won’t be walking around saying, “Ew, don’t be so autistic.” It’s not a far stretch, people.
But I can’t really claim the offense as my own, can I? I won’t try. Hitting close to home is not hitting home, after all.
For that reason, I want to tell you about a guy I knew last year, a guy I went to respite with once or twice. I’ll call him Kevin. Because for Kevin, who doesn’t have the verbal ability to stand up to people who find it funny to laugh at him, this is home. I think that if the people at Universal Pictures met him, spent some time with him, their views would change.
Kevin is a guy in his 50s. He’s not teribly tall. He has brown hair, and being me, I don’t know what color his eyes are. At the time that I met Kevin, he was planning to move into one of the group homes run by the same organization that ran respite. Kevin has Down Syndrome, and he is also extremely hard of hearing.
Kevin had one primary love- the vacuum cleaner. He would vacuum all day if he could, even at six in the morning when I was trying to sleep! He could be redirected and never once got upset when he was told, “Not yet.” When he did get to vacuum, the only words I ever heard leave his mouth were “Kirby” and “happy.” For the next few days, it was “Kirby, happy” every few minutes, round the clock.
Kevin also liked to know the time and to drink tea and coffee. He actually talked staff into taking us to get pizza and ice cream, too, pretty much on his own.
The lesson I’ll never forget from Kevin is to be happy with who you are and what you’ve got, and stick with it. Don’t dwell on what you can’t have, and when things are tough, recall the good times, for they will come again.
So, Universal Pictures, don’t you think that if you had even a slice of the happiness people like Kevin have all the time, you would do better than to take stabs at people who are unable to defend themselves?
You see, you’ve got it backwards. You don’t laugh at him; learn from him.