Thursday, August 11, 2016

Feeling Uncomfortable Around People With Disabilities

I have two children who are on the severe end of the autism spectrum. They are considered disabled. But I must confess there are times that I'm uncomfortable around other people with disabilities.

There I said it.

Judge me if you want.

I don't know why this is. It happens more often with physical disabilities. It has become less since my children were diagnosed, but it is still there. I don't think I'm alone.

Why do people feel uncomfortable with disabilities? I suspect part of it might be that physical disabilities remind us of how fragile and uncertain life can be. Perhaps disabilities in general make us question the goodness of God. Why does God allow any disabilities?

I think that it is important, if a church is going to become disability-friendly, to address this common reaction and not pretend that it doesn't exist.

How do we respond to these feelings? We shouldn't respond with self-condemnation. That doesn't do anyone any good. The most important thing to do is to get to know the person with the disability. As the relationship develops, the disability slips into the background. It doesn't disappear, but it is no longer the defining factor.

For a while, our daughter went through a lot of workers at her group home. People were afraid of her and there was a high turnover. This seemed strange to me because I knew Abby and didn't see anything to be afraid of. But this was because I saw Abby as my daughter and not as a person with autism. For those who first meet Abby, it will take some time. But it is worth the wait.

So my advice is to acknowledge the feelings but don't let them control you. Enter into relationships and love the people for who they are.

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