I just read about a new organization in California called The Uniquely Abled Academy. It’s a good name. It captures the difference of people who are not neurologically or physically typical, while emphasizing the capability rather than the shortcomings. I’ve been looking for a term to replace disabled, and perhaps this is it. It’s good.
Unfortunately, I’m not feeling it this week. The end of the school year always challenges every member of our family; end-of-year projects, transition anxieties, and exhaustion overwhelm us. So I, like everyone else, am tired and grumpy. Dark thoughts predominate, and the most despairing pertain to Sam.
Being optimistic about her future demands energy—obviously energy to support her, but also energy to selectively ignore or repress significant parts of our daily life. Last weekend’s ordeal at the job interviews sapped my reserves. I did not see a girl with unique abilities. I saw a girl who could never have navigated that process. When I imagine her future self, ten years down the road, the adult I envision still cannot manage it. For her final interview she sat at an empty table with a sign identifying it as the correct table. But there were no interviewers. They had failed to show, but the sign, placed earlier during set-up, remained. When I looked into the room, Sam was sitting at the table patiently, waiting. Then I overheard another interviewer shout, “Why’s that girl sitting at that table? No one’s gonna talk to her!” I grabbed Sam and we left. Would she have ever realized something was amiss? Asked for help? Stood up? I still cannot quite believe that all of those other teenagers figured out what they needed to do and where they needed to be, but apparently they did. They were able. Sam was not able.
I can talk about the social context of disability endlessly. I can, and do, believe what I write. But the future I saw when Sam waited, clueless, at that vacant table, was bleak. We will need many more “uniquely-abled” enterprises before I’ll trust that she can be integrated. That’s on me, and I do not know if I have the stamina or enterprising spirit to make it happen. I hope that summer vacation replenishes my soul.