When Will Embracing Differences Cease to Be Newsworthy?

 

It's easy to understand why stories like this go viral on social media:

 

We love sharing things that lift our spirits, and hearing about our young people embracing their peers with differences certainly will do that.  It makes us smile and inspires us to be more accepting of those around us.

But I can't help but wonder: Shouldn't we hope to start seeing less and less of these stories?

Now I don't mean to imply that we should cease to embrace those around us who learn differently, or have different interests. Far from it. In fact, what I want is for this kind of behavior to become so normalized that it becomes the status quo.

Basically, it should cease to be news worthy.

Students with Down syndrome being a contributing member of their basketball teams will be looked at as normal. Teens with autism fully integrating with their peers and forming important bonds with them will just be an everyday occurrence.

Clearly, the young man in the video above has talent. As anyone who's ever played a game of H.O.R.S.E. can tell you: shooting three's ain't easy. It's hard enough when you're playing by yourself, not being guarded. It's a whole other story in the heat of the game, with players defending you, and trying to hit it on the run while keeping an eye on the shot clock.

Maybe the story shouldn't be "Player with Down Syndrome Scores 14 Points." Maybe it should be "Player Who Hasn't Played All Season Scores 14: Why the Heck Wasn't This Kid Getting More Minutes ALL SEASON?!"

My hope is that someday we'll look back at these news stories and be confused. We'll say "well, duh, of course. Is there any other way?"

To get to this point, I think we have to do something that seems a bit counterintuitive: our attitude about acceptance has to change from "I'm doing something nice," to "I'm doing the right thing to do as a human."

That's not to say that the individuals we see in stories such as these have anything other than the best intentions and motivations, but I think all too often accepting and embracing someone with a disability is viewed as charitable work, rather than just what we do.

I'll never stop enjoying these stories. It's innate as a human to smile at such positive stories, especially amidst all the negatives one we're exposed to on a daily basis. I won't even stop sharing them, because in order to get to a place of total normalization, we have to fundamentally change our attitudes, and that takes time and effort.

But someday, I hope that these kind of stories are so commonplace that we don't even bat an eye. We'll just know that's how things are, how they should be, and how they'll always be.

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Andrew Littlefield MM, MT-BC

The George Center , 12060 Etris Road, Roswell, GA, 30075