A woman with Down Syndrome that I met a few years ago is getting married. I was so happy for her and immediately wrote my congratulations. She’s a lovely woman, will make a lovely bride and the groom, a man I do not know, is a very lucky man. I scrolled away from that post to others and eventually took a highly scientific quiz to determine the name of my inner sprite. “Facebook keeps me informed,” I tell people, when in fact its cheaper and more scientific that introspective therapy.
It was almost a day later when I realized that, for the first time, the news of a person with an intellectual disability getting engaged and looking forward to marriage, was just news. It wasn’t long ago that any announcement of any kind of romantic relationship between those with intellectual disabilities would stop me in my tracks. It was big news. Not that the news of the woman that I’ve met getting married isn’t big news, it is, of course, it’s life changing news. But I mean BIG news, news that shocks rather than surprises.
I’m no longer shocked to see people with intellectual disabilities getting married.
I need to say that again.
I’m no longer shocked to hear about people with intellectual disabilities getting married.
I remember a young man named Dale who, when I was talking to him several years ago, distracted me simply because he was wearing a wedding ring. I couldn’t take my eyes off it. I’d never seen one on a person with an intellectual disability. This was several years ago but not a long time ago.
That ring and these announcements and their resultant expectations are the result of a lot of different things. They are, of course, a testament to the parents who parented adults, parents who saw their child’s potential to grow into relationships, parents who were willing to push by medical and societal predictions and prejudices and just parent the child that the got, not the child they were told they had. They are also a testament to those who supported these children as they grew into real adulthoods, a major victory, the teachers, and teacher’s assistance, the direct support professionals, the behaviour therapists, the specialists and the generalists and everyone in between, who managed to dust off and actually use the tools that would lead to a real life in the real world.
But most of all they are a testament to the driving force of the will and unbreakable hope of those with intellectual disabilities themselves. Throwing tantrums when treated with disrespect. Staring down the harsh glare of ‘good enough’ and demanding instead, ‘better.’ The grabbing of low set bar of expectation and pulling them up in an exercise of power that would change their lives.
Parents can prepare.
Support professionals can teach.
But people with intellectual disabilities do.
All are important, but it’s the doing that damns the darkness.
Yes, it’s the doing that damns the darkness.