“Everyone is special in different ways”
I grew up in a time when there were labels for people with physical and mental disabilities which are considered totally inappropriate, insensitive and discriminatory today. In my own family, we had our share of relatives who had some form of disability. My Mom’s younger brother had developmental delays and, without faulting her for it, because it was acceptable back then, she would refer to my uncle using the R word – retarded. There were other labels that I heard in those growing-up days – Mongoloid, albino, Negro, and other terms that are considered taboo these days.
It must have been hard for my lola to have a mentally challenged child. People who did not develop mentally at the same rate as most people were bound to be ignored, teased and bullied, even ostracized. My lola opted to keep my uncle with her and she took him everywhere! But other than being her companion, he had no contribution to society. My uncle was high functioning. He stammered but could communicate and be understood. Thinking about it now, he would be quite an asset. But there were no support groups that could have given her comfort or taught her how to make my uncle a useful citizen in society.