Why are we (society) judging fish based on their ability to climb a tree?

26 February 2015

Why are we (society) judging fish based on their ability to climb a tree?

I just love it when I read or hear something that makes me think and reflect.   These last few weeks I have been meeting with parents to explore their thoughts on what it means to them to be part of a supportive community.  These sessions have been very interesting and have helped me do just that – reflect on my beliefs, values and views.

For years, support services agencies have been working hard at changing their language because they realize that words have power and meaning and can hurt others even if unintentional.  Parents of children (or adult children) with disabilities have also been struggling in describing their child’s disability and/or support needs in a way that is respectful and celebrates their loved one’s differences rather than place a judgment on them.

Sometimes the word ‘normal’ is used to make distinctions between people who have physical or intellectual abilities and people who might have greater support needs.  I must admit that I cringe every time I hear that word.  I always wonder what is meant by ‘normal’.  I don’t know two people who are the same and I am glad for this.  Life would be so plain and boring if we were all identical.

Yesterday, during one of my family sessions, a father talked about his son in a way that put a new light on the word ‘normal’.   Paul described his son and other people with developmental disabilities or other differences as being normal.  Paul said that ‘everyone is normal for their DNA’.   I find this simple statement very powerful and thought provoking.  This morning I read this quote by Albert Einstein:

Feb 13‘Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing it is stupid.’

I think we need to celebrate people for who they are as unique individuals.  We also need to celebrate ourselves for who we are.  It is great to learn something new or challenge ourselves to grow but it is not okay to do it in order to change our measurement of ourselves in comparison to what some would call ‘normal’.  I am not a fish and I don’t want or need to learn how to climb a tree to be considered ‘normal’.  Who I am is who I am.  I am normal for my DNA.  People with disabilities are also normal for who they are.  Let’s celebrate this and focus on what they bring to our world rather than try to teach them to climb a tree.

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