Here’s a terrifying scenario. Worse than the scariest of Rod Sterling’s Twilight Zone episodes. Network television may show helicopters exploding and Bay Watch reruns but no programming would include something as horrific as the following: Imagine living in a home without a front door.
Cycles of frigid temperatures, dust, and bugs would be bearable compared to that which would be truly intolerable. Without a front door you would have no defense against enthusiasts hoping to convert you to a religion in which you had no interest. Without a front door, supporters would be able to pontificate endlessly without your consent. Devotees could look right inside your house, tell you why you should subscribe to their religion based on your personal possessions.
This concern is certainly not a knock (sorry!) on any particular religion. Many folks take comfort in faith. But chances are those people are pleased with the choice they have already made. It seems unlikely that any of my gentle readers woke up this morning thinking, “I guess it’s time to start believing in something else.”
If you didn’t have a front door, you couldn’t politely say, “no thank you” to the people trying to get you to change teams. You would be subject to infinite suggestions. You could never just shut the door, make the conversation stop.
I wonder if members of underrepresented minority might have similar feelings. Italians, Blacks, Jews, Asians, Latins, LBGTQIA+ people, atheists, first generation college students, left handers. Nobody wants to feel like an animal in a zoo. My best guess is that the animals in a zoo would rather be elsewhere as well, but that is a topic for another article. Nobody wants to be identified only as a member of a group. People want to be seen as people. And nobody wants to be told incessantly, “you’re not okay as you are; you should be somebody else; and I’m going to tell you about it hour after hour.”
What if every time you ran into your left-handed neighbor you said, “Hey, I have a left-handed friend! We get along just fine!” Or “Is David a popular name with left handers?” Could these seemingly innocent remarks be seen as micro-aggressions? What about, “we had some left-handers living down the street; they didn’t steal nothing!” Am I stretching the point to suggest that the left-hander might hear, “You people are usually thieves.” If my suggestion seems overly sensitive or far-fetched, replace “left-handed” with “Italians, Blacks, Jews, Asians, Latins, LBGTQIA+ people or atheists” and tell me if you don’t see how folks could reasonably take offense.
You might think you were displaying understanding and acceptance by saying “I like left-handers, I surely do,” but you might be heard as emphasizing the difference between yourself and the left-handed person. Chances are the left hander knows they are left-handed. Incessant reminders just call attention to the difference between them and you.
In my profession, I see students with learning differences and parents expressing concern that their child will never go far in life because, they are “not like everyone else.” The implication is that they want to make them “like everyone else”, “normal.”
I have written frequently about loving your child for who she is not for her learning style. Today I want to consider what it’s like being that child with the learning differences.
A kid who learns differently is treated differently. From an early age. On Wednesdays when all the other children go to recess, the kid with learning differences goes to tutoring. When neighborhood kids play sports the kid with learning differences is getting “extra help.” Or going to speech therapy. Or going to a special group for “social skills.” When other kids are doing homework that takes an hour, kids with learning differences are sitting for many hours, frequently staring at the same page in the textbook. Although kids with learning differences frequently give up on studying because they don’t have the techniques to be successful.
Kids with learning differences say, “when I study for ten minutes, it feels like five hours; when I play video games for five hours, it feels like ten minutes.” Kids with learning differences are more likely than their neuro-typical peers to self-medicate with marijuana.
Could children with learning differences be checking out because it’s the only way they can disconnect, get some quiet? Because all the adults—parents, family friends, teachers, psychologists—talk and talk and talk about the child and the child’s learning differences.
If you were a child with learning differences, wouldn’t you just hope that everyone would just hush up for a minute, let you catch your breath, give you some space, change the subject?
Current professionals cannot change a student with learning differences into a neuro-typical learner. But you can help under-represented folks feel less discrimination for being “left-handed”.
Kids who learn differently don’t have a door on their brain. Everyone can see inside their head. Or thinks they can. You don’t want people shouting into your house that your religion is wrong. Maybe we should give kids with learning differences a little peace and quiet as well.