The past three years, I’ve been an active member in Best Buddies.  I’ve served on the executive board for two of those three years, so I hold the organization very close to my heart and have strong opinions regarding those with developmental and learning disabilities..  I feel that the most important thing to take away from disability studies is the necessity for integration in society.

Those with learning disabilities are no different than those without.  They experience the same feelings, think the same thoughts, and enjoy the same activities.  As a buddy told me one time, “We’re just like you, excess we process things a little bit slower.”  I’ve always kept that message in the back of my head.  For example, last Friday we hosted our annual Halloween Best Buddies Dance.  My buddy introduced me to his girlfriend, another girl in best buddies, whom he’d been dating for a few weeks now.  They laughed, enjoyed the games, and danced together, just like I and my girlfriend (if I had one haha) would at a dance.  He told me about his new job at the office, what his plans for the weekend were, and asked me about my week. I think that’s the most important thing Best Buddies has taught me – to accept them as equal individuals, who are not characterized by their disability.  In fact, we never find out what types of disabilities our buddies have, or discuss it with them.  Not because they don’t want us to know, but because it just is not important.

A heavy aspect of disability studies weighs on the medicilzation of the disability as a disease, which “casts human variation as deviance from the norm, as pathological condition, as deficit, and, significantly, as an individual burden and personal tragedy” (Steibers, 11).  Developmental and learning disabilities add an extra variable to fighting medicilization, because they are technically degenerative “diseases” to the brain, where something like an extra chromosome may be present in your cells (down syndrome).  While individuals with such disabilities might process information slower than someone without a mental disability, this should not be looked upon as a burden or deficit.  Through my experiences, I’ve seen individuals with developmental disorders be some of the happiest and most life-loving people I’ve ever met.

Another powerful experience I’ve encountered with Best Buddies, which I talk more about in artifact offering, is the refuse to use the “R” word campaign.  Linton discusses the negative connotation of such ridiculing words in his essay, and I feel that awareness over the need to exclude such “nasty words,” as he calls them, from our vocabulary is incredibly important.  Like the medicalization topic, such words are demeaning to those with developmental and learning disabilities, and in no way characterizes them or who they are.

The final note I want to close on is I’ve never felt out of place at a Best Buddies event.  Whether I’m embarrassingly shake my butt in a dance off competition with George (and loosing terribly) or belting along to Taylor Swift at the top of my lungs, no one will judge me.  They are entirely accepting of me, and who I truly am.  So shouldn’t I give them the same respect?