Thinking About Disability

I’m still here.  Life has been incredibly full and busy.  Several people have contacted me to ask why my blog was set to private.  In a nutshell, a couple of bored teenagers found it and were using it for immature ends, so I put it on the down low for awhile.

So.  We are all settled in our new home, starting to meet people and get to know some of our neighbors.  We absolutely love it here – this was such a great move for us.  The kids are all settled in, too, and all but Finn are busy with outside activities they love.  I’ve been on the hunt for something to get Finn involved in, and I’ll tell you, it’s tough.  We have not had a lot of luck in the past finding activities that work for him – in pretty much every case because accommodations have not been readily forthcoming.

I have a feeling that he would enjoy basketball (the boy can handle a ball like nobody’s business), and I looked into our local Special Olympics for a basketball program for him, but it’s a winter sport, and I’d like to find something for him now because I think he needs an outside interest and activity for numerous reasons.  So, I’ve decided to look into horseback riding (and I don’t mean hippotherapy; I’m not looking at it as any kind of therapy or intervention.  I just want to find an activity that he enjoys).  We live in horse country – we are surrounded by acreage and pastures and farms and stables, so it seems like a natural option.

However, not every stable that offers horseback riding lessons accommodates kids with disabilities.

On a recommendation, I contacted a local stable that might have a riding program for kids with special needs.  I sent an email explaining who we are and that Finn is an 8-year-old boy with Down syndrome, and is there a possibility of Finn riding with them?  I got a very nice email back explaining that they “don’t have the equipment or level of skill necessary for severely disabled.  We only support high functioning kids.”

It left me feeling very sad.  While there isn’t anything rude or wrong, exactly, with the response (it was an honest, straightforward response born of entrenched cultural/societal views of disability), it left me wondering how exactly to respond.  Disability is a social construct; people are disabled only to the extent that accommodations and access aren’t made available.  And what, exactly, is “high functioning”?  It’s a totally subjective term.  It’s not like there’s a test that neatly and efficiently places people into these “high functioning” and “low functioning” categories; it’s largely perception.

Still, I suspect I understand what their perception of “severely disabled” and “high functioning” looks like, and if I’m right, Finn would probably fit into the latter box.  But it’s all bullshit, isn’t it?  We all have strengths, and we all have limitations.  We all excel in certain areas, and we all need extra help or support in other areas.  It saddens me to again be hit with the reality that Finn will always be most limited by other people – not by Down syndrome.

It turns out that he may have an opportunity to ride at the stable next door to us, where Annabelle and Lilah both ride – and I wasn’t asked by the proprietor there which category Finn fits into.



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4 Responses to Thinking About Disability

  1. Nan Mykel June 17, 2017 at 6:03 pm #

    thought I just made a comment but I don’t see it? I suggested that if you took Finn to see the stables people they might not think he was so severely disabled.. I think riding is a good choice.

    • Lisa June 17, 2017 at 8:43 pm #

      They did invite us to bring him IF he is “high functioning.”

  2. Jodie June 19, 2017 at 5:24 am #

    While we celebrate the fabulous achievements of our almost 3 year old with Down Syndrome, I see glimpses of how older kids and adults with Down syndrome are treated at times and I fear that Down syndrome may not be our son’s biggest problem, the attitude of others will be and that makes me sad. Bet they wouldn’t dare ask you if you were “high functioning” !!
    Here in New Zealand we have Riding for the Disabled which is a non-profit organisation. They cater for the individual, whatever the disability. For Down syndrome, depending on the child, I think their goal is to educate the child and give them confidence so that they can then ride those “high functioning” horses in the ordinary riding clubs.

    • Lisa June 19, 2017 at 10:40 am #

      You are very right that societal attitudes and perceptions are the much bigger problem.

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