The Power of Response

Makenzie - Indianola, Iowa
Entered on February 2, 2009
Age Group: Under 18
Themes: disability
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Author Lurlene McDaniel once stated, “While people don’t get to choose what life gives to them, they do get to choose how they respond.” Can you imagine being different from everyone else around you? I’m not talking about a bad hair day or a bad sense of style either. I’m talking about being born without the proper tools and skills needed to live life like a normal human being. This is exactly what people with disabilities are faced with.

Picture this: A seventeen year old boy beginning the second semester of his junior year. He’s in the marching band, boy scouts, musical plays, karate, and still maintains a 3.5 GPA. His name is Tyler. He has cerebral palsy, difficulty speaking and is confined to a wheelchair. Surprised? Now picture this: An eighteen year old girl beginning her senior year. She’s the social butterfly and practically friends with everyone. She’s so popular that she was even crowned Homecoming Queen among a school of thousands. Her name is Victoria and she suffers from Down Syndrome. Surprised?

The word “disability” has been given a very negative connotation in today’s society. Although, people with disabilities are capable of achieving anything a normal human being can. They just need a little extra support and guidance.

Jason McElway is proof. Diagnosed with autism at two, he was unable to play, but enthusiastically managed his high school basketball team for three years. In the week of the final game, Jason’s coach approached him and told him he would be suiting up for senior night. With four minutes left in the game, Jason’s coach entered him into the game and he burst onto the court. The crowd went wild as he scored shot after shot, swishing six three-pointers. At the buzzer, Jason was the high scorer for the game with twenty points, and easily the happiest boy on earth. All of this was possible because Jason’s coach believed in him and wanted him to ”See how it feels,” to be in a real game, and for once, feel normal.

Stories like these are inspiring, but almost unheard of. I have seen students with disabilities be laughed at, made fun of, and, worst of all, completely ignored. It boggles my mind to know that people feel its okay to treat the disabled poorly, knowing that they can do nothing to defend themselves. I believe that people with disabilities deserve to be treated fairly. They deserve a friendly hello in the hallway. They deserve support and they deserve guidance.

Disabilities are not contagious. I wish people wouldn’t go in the other direction when they see a disabled person. I wish people wouldn’t point, stare, and wonder, “How do they do this?” and “How do they do that?” It doesn’t matter, they just do. I wish people would give their attention to people with disabilities because they want to, not because it seems like the honorable thing to do. As a society, I believe we need to become more familiar with people with disabilities, and the disabilities they suffer from. Statistics show that in 15 years, one in three parents will give birth to an autistic child. There is no avoiding it.

People with disabilities are not inadequate. They are unique people faced with an extremely unlucky situation. They do not choose to have a disability, but they are forced to deal with their disabilities and go on with their lives. Responding positively to people with disabilities only makes them believe more in themselves, and feel empowered. As my friend Tyler once said, “I may have a disability, so what! I‘ll still achieve every one of my dreams…and I got some pretty big dreams.”