I was sitting outside. The weather had just crossed from warm to hot. I was waiting for Joe to bring the car. I wasn’t doing anything more that watching people go by and soaking in the heat. I was loving it, remember we Canadians can wait a long time for summer. A man was coming my way, I saw ‘the look.’

I wonder if other disabled people notice it as well. It’s a look that says, “I’m going to intrude into your life, even knowing I am a stranger to you, because you need me.: At lease when I see it I can prepare for what’s coming.He got close to me, not weirdly close, just conversation close and he, this man a year or two older than me, “You need to go in to where there is air conditioning. It’s too hot to sit where you are.” I told him that I was good where I was, he said,”Well at least move into the shade.” I told him that I was enjoying the sun. He actually threw his hands up in frustration as if he’d just spoken to a disrespectful child who wouldn’t do what he was told.

I’m 64 and, I have no illusions about this, I look 64. Yet people still feel compelled to parent me. People still feel it’s their right and their role and their responsibility to act as parent towards me as if I’ve never actually grown up.

While I’m used to it, it bothers me every time. I think it’s because, in that situation I often forget the dynamics, intrusive stranger/me, and retreat to parental concern/me. I explain what I want, I hold my ground but I forget they have no right to tell me where I can and cannot sit on any particular day.

This innate need to parent the disabled that some people have, I wonder if it sometimes creeps into care. I wonder if staff start seeing those they support as those they parent. Yikes. That’s a mistake.

I wonder if parents of kids with disabilities are able to transition to parents of adults with disabilities.

I know you know that I have the assertion skills to deal with these instances which many with intellectual disabilities don’t. But do you know how it chips away, slowly over time, at my sense of self as a fully adult man? Maybe because the damage can’t be seen, like if he’d punched me with his fist. But he did punch me, with his assumptions and stereotypes, and though I never bruised physically doesn’t mean no damage was done.

Prejudice and assumption hurts, when done by a stranger.

Imagine how it feels when done by someone who says they love you or someone who says that their job is to support you.



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