Q40: Adventures in the Mainstream

Q 40)

“Because Ned has Down syndrome, everyone he meets can tell he has a disability.  There is one benefit to that.  People tend to make allowances for him, allowances he sometimes needs.  He can wear his sweatpants when everybody else is a bit more formal.  He gets the kid’s cheeseburger.  He has the opportunity to surprise people with what he says and what he knows compared to their expectations.  If some people immediately avoid him because of his obvious disability, I can easily convince myself that they’re probably not people we’d want to be around anyway…In brief, for those who choose to avoid my son because he has mental retardation, the hell with you.


Whenever I wish he looked like just another kid, I can think about Renee.  She’s tall, thin and rangy, with short, spiky hair, an intelligent look, and a wonderful smile that’s all too rare.  She looks normal, and probably all of her life the strangers she meets will assume she is.  When they find out what she’s really all about, she’s likely to scare them off far more than Ned scares off those he first meets.  Renee is the highest functioning person in Ned’s teen world, so logically she should have the best chance to be productive, successful, and maybe even happy.  But ironically she is probably doomed to a more lonely, frightened life than any of the others.”  p 243


Do you think it’s easier to have a visible disability like Down syndrome?  Have you ever thought about how people might react differently if your loved one wasn’t easily identified as having an intellectual disability?  Do you agree with Palmer’s prediction for “Renee” – a girl who presumably has Autism – having a harder time because in life?  Does he think her troubles are because people have higher expectations for her or her emotional issues?

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