Learning from those Who Cannot Learn

Nihir - Tracy, California
Entered on October 16, 2008
Age Group: Under 18

I believe that we can all learn something from somebody who has a learning disability. As a student, it is easy to find mentally disabled children struggling to learn all around me. They are teased relentlessly by their peers and sometimes doubted by their very own teachers and mentors. But what I see in these children is much more.

I believe that we can learn from their persistence, their work ethic, their devotion to the very thing they find most difficult. Most people shy away from the things we are not good at, and yet these young children spend each and every day in school, learning, working to do something their minds were not built to do. And yet, by some miracle, many of them are able to even overcome their disability. They are able to break free of their own imprisonment.

I believe these kids have the most unique minds, and I believe that we can derive inspiration from them. They have minds that are untainted by the biases of society; they are truly free thinkers. To them, there is no idea to unusual, no idea too enormous. As society frowns upon these children, I see potential. I see new ideas emerging from their unique minds.

I’ve spent a lot of time with mentally disabled children. I have a few extended family members with mental disabilities, and quite a few friends as well. I think the most interesting thing about this unique group of people is their seemingly inexhaustible supply of happiness. Sure, they aren’t happy all of the time. One of my friends who is mentally disabled has never failed to say hi to me and offer a smile. And ask about my dog. That may not seem like much, but when it is coming from a person who was not expected to function in society, nor talk, it is truly amazing. And this gesture of kindness never ceases to make my day and inspire me to do more.

When I think of what a person can achieve, I think of great thinkers and athletes. People like Stephen Hawking and Michael Phelps, people who stretch the limits of human capabilities both mentally and physically. But I also think of the people who are handicapped mentally. I think of the obstacles that they must overcome to be able to function in society. I think of the long process of acquiring a language their minds were not programmed, so to speak, to learn. I think of the difficulties they must face not being able to convey their problems and emotions. And then I think back to myself, and the people around me. If people who are mentally disabled can make such quantum leaps in their knowledge through hard work, why can’t everybody else? I believe that we can gain so much from the mentally disabled. This I believe.