As accepting as we would like to think our world is, ignorance towards people with special needs is one of the most common and unnoticed forms of ignorance. I cannot begin to tell you how many times I have witnessed bullying of people with special needs through both direct and indrect ways, that include isolating, yelling, and discriminating against them. Our society needs to learn how to interact with people with special needs, and understand how to accept their differences from neuro-typicals. So many times neuro- typical people think that it is okay to treat people with special needs in these kinds of ways. It breaks my heart because 99% of people who treat others this way get away with it, and don't even know they treated the person wrongly. Ever since I was young, I became sad when people were mean to my brother and others with special needs. When my brother would ask friendly questions, it broke my heart to sometimes see people laugh at him, ignore him, walk away from him, or even all of these! Surprisingly, a lot of times this form of ignorance can come from neuro-typicals that we would never think of (not just random strangers), including teachers and even family members. One important moral we all have to keep in mind, is that no one knows what someone goes through unless they walk that person's path. It is so wrong to make a judgement about someone else if you do not understand who they are as a person and what they have been through. It took me a while to understand why neuro- typicals acted ignorant towards people with special needs, and over many years of observation, I have concluded 3 reasons why they do. I am hoping that these reasons can provide a sense of clarity and understanding of why neuro-typical people often times mistreat those with special needs. Once you can understand these reasons, there are ways of stopping the ignorance through peaceful confrontation.
1) Some Neuro-Typicals Were Never Taught Any Differently
Some people just don't know how to treat others with respect simply because they were brought up a certain way. This goes for everyone, special needs or not. It's a shame because until some type of mental or emotional revelation hits these types of people, they will always have very closed minds and will follow the method of thinking and behavior that was influenced upon them.
2) Some Neuro-Typicals Are Unexposed and Scared
Other people (these types are more easy to confront) just don't know how to interact or understand people with special needs because they aren't around it much -or even ever at all. People generally are uncomfortable exploring people and situations outside of their comfort zones. These types of people can ignore or act afraid towards someone with special needs and might not intentionally mean to do so. Most of these people can easily be corrected and will happily jump on the "acceptance" train if given guidance and a clear explanation about special needs.
3) Some Neuro-Typicals Are Just Plain Mean
Some people in this world are straight out crazy and evil. If you are dealing with someone like this, just leave and get yourself and the person with special needs out of the situation. You can't knock any sense into crazies. Unfortunately, these people will never change and that is okay because they were put on earth for some other reason. Let karma take care of these people.
1) Stay Calm Before Approaching
Do whatever you need to do to make yourself calm so you can talk to the ignorant person. Even if you want to punch them the face (we've all been there), remain focused. Think about what you want to say to them and how you plan to call them out on their ignorant behavior.
2) Be Genuine
Look the person in the eye and just start talking to them. Introduce yourself and tell them what they did wrong in a nice way. Offer alternatives of how they could have handled the situation differently and wait for them to respond.
After you say what you needed to say, if someone is still defending themselves or saying mean things to you, just leave. It will be their issue to deal with and not yours. You can't argue with a crazy person.Take a deep breath and let karma take care of the rest.
Here is a really good line to use when confronting an ignorant person: "We are all human and deserve respect and understanding"
3) Reassure The Person With Special Needs
This is the most important thing!! If you are a parent of someone with special needs, it is really important that you talk with them in a loving way about how they are different and how to handle people that are mean to them.This applies to all people with special needs on all functioning levels. For example, you can say something like, " I am so proud of who you are and I love that you are different. You are smart, caring, and so unique. People are not always nice to people who are different, but I want you to know that you are amazing just they way you are. I love you and I will always stick up for you." I think this is a great line that kids need to hear. A lot of people can subconsciously carry guilt and confusion from being around ignorant people, and this line can be very helpful nurturing to them.
Even if you think a person with special needs doesn't understand ignorance, they really do but may not be able to communicate it. Reassure the person that everything is okay and that what the other person said is not true about them. Always tell them how amazing they are and how you appreciate them.
It is our job as society to make sure this form of ignorance ends. Please always keep in mind is that you cannot shield a person with special needs or lock them away from ignorance. Yes, this can be a harsh world to live in, but being honest and open with the person with special needs will help them recognize situations and learn how to stick up for themselves. The more we speak up and the more we peacefully confront people, the more this form of ignorance will vanish for our future generations and cease to exist. Keep picturing an accepting and loving world for everyone with special needs, because it will happen and it gets better every day!