*Emma gave me permission to post some of what she wrote yesterday during a meeting with a few of the people who are part of her team at her school.
Emma wrote, “Talking is hard because I like to say silly things that people take seriously and that is why I am misunderstood.”
In reply to a question about Emma’s thoughts on another class joining hers for a project they are working on together, Emma wrote, “Worrying that I will not be thought intelligent. I am considered stupid by people who don’t know better.”
One of the staff commented that the more she writes with them, the more people will understand and know how smart she is. Emma then wrote, “I know, but it’s hard work for me to write.”
This is something I think people may not fully appreciate – that communicating is tough and hard work for Emma. It isn’t that she doesn’t want to participate in discussions or want to express herself and have conversations with people, it’s that what most of us take completely for granted is, for Emma, not easy and requires tremendous concentration and effort.
Someone else mentioned how Emma understands everything that people are saying and Emma wrote, “People think I can’t understand what they say, but my hearing is excellent.”
And a little later Emma wrote, “I know people don’t mean to be cruel, yet they are when they see someone like me.”
One of the team wanted to know if she was referring to specific people and how she deals with them.
Emma wrote, “They are everywhere. I try to like them anyway.”
Before people comment on this post, protesting Emma’s words and insisting that people are basically loving and kind and that Emma must be unduly influenced by me, to write such things, I will tell you that from what I’ve witnessed when with Emma – people typically talk about her right in front of her, talk about her instead of to her, do NOT presume her competent, treat her as though she were at least eight years younger than she actually is, and though they may not mean, intend or feel they are being “cruel” this is the word Emma chose to write. I cannot, even for a moment, really know what it is to be as intelligent as my daughter is and regularly treated as though I were not. I will just add here that Emma is far more compassionate than I am. So if anyone is being influenced, I hope it is me being influenced by her.
And for what it’s worth, this is what I think about all of this… I think human beings tend to be neither saints nor evil, but that the vast majority of the human population has ingrained knee-jerk responses toward those who are different from them. It is rare to find someone who does not hold some degree of prejudice, often without realizing it. I believe most people, often unconsciously and without meaning to, respond to people who are different, whether that means their skin color, their accent, the way they dress or look or behave, with either fear, irritation, curiosity, jealousy, impatience or pity. It is actually quite rare for a person to treat ALL humans they encounter with respect and as complete equals, without any trace of “othering”. I believe segregation breeds “othering” and that an inclusive society of diverse people is the ideal, but that’s another series of posts.