Guest Blogger: Catherine Graybosch, GiGi’s Playhouse Westchester board president

I recently came across a Tedx talk about how our society looks at and includes people with disabilities. It was eye-opening to see that we went from eliminating them from society by putting them in institutions to creating a “special” culture for them in schools, jobs and so forth.  While most of us think that this is a good thing, the speaker explains that we have now gone too far and “special” equals “separate” in many instances. Instead of having one senior prom, many schools have one for the “regular” kids and one for the “special needs” kids. She mentions a rodeo who decided that it would be better to have a separate rodeo instead of including all children of all abilities.

People mean well.  They think they’re doing something good and that they’re helping the people with disabilities.  Being a parent of a son with Down syndrome, I disagree. It’s important that the integration of people with disabilities goes beyond awareness and moves to acceptance. Not just acceptance that a person may have a disability, but acceptance of the person regardless of his/her disability.

This is one of the many reasons that I love GiGi’s Playhouse for my son and my family. Nancy Gianni was never about feeling sorry, trying to keep people with Down syndrome separate or anything like that. GiGi’s is a place where ALL people are included, with or without Down syndrome. Our logo may say “Down Syndrome Achievement Center” but we’re only able to do that when everyone is involved.

Now that I am president of our operating Board, one of my missions is to make sure that all of our volunteers and our community understand that it is important to truly look at the person coming through the doors to a program or for a special event. Regardless of the disability they walk through the door with, see them as a person first. Talk to them like you would anyone else. Interact with them like they matter and their opinions count.

GiGi’s Playhouse continues to spread acceptance throughout the world and I am so thankful to be a part of this organization.

Here are two links that you might enjoy:

 

Tedx Talk: “Isn’t it a pity? The real problem with special needs”

“People First Language” by Kathie Snow

 

 

 

 

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