After she vented, I took a risk, I said, “I’m afraid your child’s primary diagnosis is no longer Down Syndrome, she is now, and I’m sorry to say this, a teenager.” She laughed and after a moment said, “Yeah this is what all my friends with teenagers are talking about, I just didn’t expect,” and here she stopped herself, “that my daughter would get there too.” It was a moment of realization. So I did come, and we worked on coping strategies and teaching her daughter skills that teens need in order to be safe.
I tell you this because I ran into teen turned young woman a few days ago. She had bright pink hair and a nose ring. I almost didn’t recognize her but when she stopped to look at me, recognizing me without remembering me, it all came flooding back. I called her name and said mine and she walked over laughing. She asked me why I was in a wheelchair now and then I told her that I loved her hair, it could not be more pink, it was the pinnacle of pink. She said, and I’m quoting here, “Yeah, fucking awesome isn’t it?”
I was taken aback. Now before going further here’s full disclosure, I am not surprised or startled when the f-bomb is dropped into a conversation. It is so frequent in conversation that it’s punch has lost a bit of strength. But I was taken aback because I don’t often hear people with intellectual disabilities, who aren’t ‘having behaviours’ as people like to say, just use it calmly as part of a conversation.
She watched my reaction, smiling, then she said, “I’m an adult, I get to pick my words.”
I agreed that she was.
Afterwards I thought that what she had said was interesting. “I get to pick my words.” It’s a statement of some power and complete autonomy. That’s what free people do.
That’s what free people do.