Nondisabled people often think that if there are two or more disabled people within a 50 mile radius of each other we all know each other by default and must be best friends. I understand the basis for the assumption, people who live in the same area might receive some form of therapy or other community services to help with their disability at the same place. This is a logical assumption but it is unfair and limiting to assume that just because disabled people are thrown together by circumstance to assume that everyone knows everyone else is more than just a passing acquaintance. More often than not strangers will assume that my boyfriend is actually my brother unless they have just seen us kiss each other. People have expressed surprise that I’m not dating someone “like me,” by which they mean someone who is also disabled. I have dated both disabled nondisabled people and I find the assumption that I would or should”stick to my own kind” insulting on several levels.
That being said the fact that I am part of the disabled community does not absolve me from my own narrow minded behavior. While the medical community will never call me physically healthy because of my disability and I admit to struggling with depression daily one of the boons granted to me was an extremely sharp mind. I have a 119 IQ. 120 is considered the start of the genius bracket. I have a ridiculously good memory for people’s names especially if I meet their pet at the same time. I have been told that I am good at mimicking accents and I know that picking up languages and writing are not difficult for me at all. In short I am a very good communicator and often times find myself uncomfortable in my dealings with those whose chronological age does not quite match up with the level at which their brain processes information. I found it especially difficult to navigate at summer camp where many of the people had cognitive differences on top of their physical ones. I know now that it painted me as cold, uncaring, and stuck up to some of the other campers. To those whose feelings I did not realize I was hurting I am truly sorry, it was never, ever intentional. It has not been until just this year that I started to feel less awkward about bridging the gap between myself and cognitively disabled people. Sometimes it’s easier than others but I do it anyway because just because someone processes things differently than I do doesn’t make them any less worthy of my empathy, appreciation, or understanding.