When I met Allison Waters, her enthusiasm about activism struck me. She is the clinical director of Reality Ministries, an organization that bonds adults with and without developmental disabilities. A talk with her refreshed my understanding of neurodiversity:
Mutuality, not sympathy
A long training process is not provided for the neurodiverse participants but for the volunteers, who should know that they are not there to help but to share life as equals. Everyone in this world contributes something precious, such as “an infectious smile,” “serving coffee,” or “playing music.” Therefore, people with neurological disabilities should also be recognized as real full humans for their existence and for their contribution. Some may point out their differences in neurological configuration, but please be minded that every human brain works in a unique way. There is not a single way that’s the best way, or THE standard way.
Belonging, be themselves
Our society likes to quantify improvement. Job trainings and behavioral managements are designed to fit the traditional mode of success. Medical institutions set goals for alleviation of symptoms to treat disorders. Aside from their good intention, there seems to lack a place just to make friends and for people to be themselves, be liked, and build a loving community.
Life-sharing, celebrate passion
Life’s beauty lies in joyful experiences with each other, which started from going for a walk together, to Karaoke, to working on their own farm and harvesting food, to hosting a talent show for 3,000 audience, and more.
Support, joint effort
It depends upon a network of supporters for a community service organization to thrive: Committed donors sustain regular operation. Local doctors offer hands in times of emergency. Church provides grants for worshipping activity. Private caregivers supplement supervision and personal assistance in bathroom. Partnership with Special Olympics and connection with volunteers spread the influence. Not one link can be missed. All of them are crucial for its running.
Humanity, finite creatures
We are all human, and we all have limitations. Rejecting the ableist paradigm not only allows the neurodivergent to be appreciated but also the neurotypical to accept their imperfections.