When I was in high school my friends and I wore upside-down pins on our shirts that read “Why Be Normal?” We had some other pins too: “Smile”, “Ask Me If I Care”, “Somebody Loves You”, and a lot more that I can’t remember but the “Why Be Normal?” one was always my favorite and it became kind of a moto for our little group. Maybe it was the fact that we allowed ourselves to behave differently than our peers, we were comfortable stepping outside the social box so to speak – but not too far out, just far enough to be different, and it was good. I didn’t grow up with kids who were much different than I was.
My brother had a friend on his baseball team who had a lower leg prosthesis (and I had a crush on him), but that was about it. I didn’t know anyone who talked differently or walked differently or used a wheelchair or a walker, anyone who communicated via computer or who had a rare disease or a syndrome or cancer or autism or anything else. I’m sure all those things were out there, I just don’t remember seeing them. I don’t think people celebrated being different 30 years ago.
In fact, when someone told me I should be a speech language pathologist I didn’t even know what it was because I’d never known anyone who needed one! Fast forward to today – we all took the ice-bucket challenge for ALS, we wear pink for cancer and red for heart disease, we walk for MS or Alzheimer’s or Down’s syndrome, we run for autism and bike in the mountains for PKU (my son’s disease). We hold fundraisers, write letters, change profile pictures, sell cookies or candy or wrapping paper or nuts.
We share, teach, support, donate, sponsor, educate and advocate for our children, our friends, our families, the boy down the block or in the next town or across the ocean. We talk out loud about our issues, tell people what we have, what we do, and what we don’t do. We build awareness everyday about the disorders that affect us, and it’s good, because people can’t accept what they don’t know, and it’s our job to teach them. Eventually, it will be ‘normal’ to have Something that makes you different, and until then, “Why Be Normal?” March is Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month; make somebody aware of your Something. This post was written by Speech Language Pathologist Margaret Domnick, read her staff profile here.