Friday, January 29, 2016

Good Sportsmanship and Disability

KidsHealth defines Good Sportsmanship as when “teammates, opponents, coaches, and officials treat each other with respect.” They further go on to discuss that “the best coaches and parents encourage their kids to play fair, to have fun, and to concentrate on helping the team...”[emphasis added]. 

These bullet points break it down rather concisely:

Sportsmanship is defined as:
  • playing fair
  • following the rules of the game
  • respecting the judgment of referees and officials
  • treating opponents with respect
Rules. Respect. Fairness. None of these terms will probably seem foreign as you contemplate good sporting behavior.

But let's delve in deeper to the words respect and fairness.

Respect is defined by Merriam-Webster as “to regard (someone or something) as being worthy of admiration because of good qualities.” In the case of respect in a sporting event, one might relate this to the athlete's dedication, determination and ability.

Fairness is defined as “marked by impartiality and honesty: free from self-interest, prejudice, or favoritism.” This is a bit more complicated, but infers that one will not cheat nor will they exhibit behavior that will reflect poorly on other players or acquire some sort of special treatment for themselves. They will also not purposely behave in a way that shows they favor particular players and so forth.

Enter what this post is really about. This week, a viral news segment hit the mass media stating “Good Sportsmanship is not Dead.” It seems an undefeated high school wrestler in Norton, Mass. volunteered to wrestle an opposing team's player who happens to have an intellectual disability. According to the news, the undefeated captain let the disabled student win and is now an example for Good Sportsmanship everywhere.

I won't speculate that this wrestler did not actually let the his opponent win and that the wrestler with a disability actually won fair and square. After all, an intellectual disability does not necessarily affect strength. Oh wait. Too, late. But that is not really what this is about… This is about the definition of Sportsmanship. Did this wrestling jock actually perform good sportsmanship? Let's see.

Rules: Did the student follow the rules? One can only speculate that he did else one would hope that the referee would have made a call. 

RespectDid the student respect his opponent? No. It is quite obvious that the undefeated captain did not respect abilities or even consider the disabled wrestler might be capable. In fact, he disrespected him so much that believed that he had to throw the match in order for his opponent to feel good about himself. 

Fairness: Did he cheat? Perhaps. It depends on whether one considers throwing a match as cheating behavior. Did he exhibit behavior that reflected poorly on others? Yes. He publicly declared that he threw the match on purpose propagating the stereotype of disabled people as incapable and worthless. Did he exhibit behavior that would get him some sort of special treatment? Absolutely! Let us not forget, this student supposedly volunteered to wrestle the disabled student. This was calculated. Now he has become a viral media sensation overnight. One can imagine this looks good for his college applications. If nothing more, he gets to gloat in his moment of infamy.

So is it good sportsmanship to let a disabled person win because you feel sorry for them? Is it good to presume they are incompetent and treat them as such? Is it inspiring to read stories about typical able-bodied people feeling they are superior to those with disabilities? No. In fact, these stories though on the surface may seem inspiring to the average person, they are harmful to people with disabilities. They help spread the idea that disability=inability. They help the world continue to believe harmful stereotypes that are just blatantly untrue.

Disability is constructed by our culture and does not mean people are incapable or worth less than others. Until we stop spreading harmful stories like these, people with disabilities will continue to be treated as charity cases with few rights.

To better understand this idea, read: http://ravingmotherfromhell.blogspot.com/2016/01/a-disability-exercise-for-allies.html

Thursday, January 21, 2016

A Disability Exercise for Allies

Imagine…


You are born sighted into a world of unsighted people who have heightened other senses to navigate their world. Their sense of smell, hearing, and touch are exaggerated. But you, you can see and so as a consequence your other senses work, but not as keenly. But you do not mind because...SIGHT! You see colors and shadows and shades though you have no words to express these things. And though the human-made world such as buildings and structures are drab since the unsighted have created them, you see shapes and contrast against the colors of the natural world.

You see the blue sky, the green fields, the rich variation of nature and all its splendid colors, tints, and shades - Nature's Art. If only you had a way to convey this information to the unsighted. But alas, because they cannot see, there is no language to describe these things. You try, no matter.

When you attempt to explain to the unsighted about what you see, they tell you that you are not making any sense. They tell you that what you have to say is not meaningful. They tell you that you are disabled and therefore what you are attempting to explain is not good. They pity you.

They focus on your deficits. They worry that you cannot smell as intensely as they can. They fret over your inability to hear as acutely as they do. They fear that you will never be able to achieve great things in life because “what you see” is interfering with your ability to function in this world.

They tell you that they are working hard to find a cure for your sightedness. They hope to find a way to cure this bad sight and improve your good senses. They are working toward finding the “sightedness gene” so that they can prevent future cases of sightedness.

You feel broken. You feel bad. But you still cannot understand how seeing all the wonderful things is so wrong. If only you could convey what you see.

Then suddenly one day you notice another person looking up at a colorful bird flying overhead. They see you looking at them. They are sighted as well!
http://7-themes.com/6960608-bird-bee-eater-nature-flowers.html
You begin talking about your experiences and find how much you have in common. You have mutual struggles – the inability to communicate what you see in words, the frustrations of trying to get the others to understand that seeing does not make you less – than but makes you unique, the fears you have of those trying to remove your sightedness from you, and the terrifying idea of preventing future sighted persons from being born. The struggles you have with others expecting you to smell and hear as strongly as they do. You decide there must be others and set out to find them.

Over time, you find others and form a disability community of sighted people. But while this happens, parents of sighted persons all over the world also attempt to join this disability community. Both want society to treat those with sight better. But the goals of the entities are very different.

The sighted people want to keep their sight and promote the goodness of sight. They know that being able to see is a wonderful thing for them yet acknowledge they are disadvantaged in this world due to their other weaker senses.

But the parents, they do not understand this. They believe that their children are harmed by their sightedness. The parents believe that the sighted only believe they are benefiting because they do not know any better. The parents say that the sighted are not able to make good decisions because they are disabled. They say the sighted do not have the capability to determine what is best for themselves. The parents fight hard against allowing the sighted to advocate for change in society.

The unsighted also hold power. They form large organizations dedicated to stopping and preventing sightedness. They recruit sponsorships from trusted corporations and celebrities.

Meanwhile, you and the other sighted try desperately to speak out against removing your sight. But the behemoth organization continues to drown you out with their massive campaigns that promote fear. They tell the unsighted public that sighted people are dangerous. They scream that the sighted are costing the unsighted too much money. And they promote the idea that the sighted are burdens to their families.

But you keep on trying to change the perception of sight. You still have no words to convey these beautiful colors that you see. You cannot accurately explain what it is like to see. You attempt to communicate how you are okay with your other sensory deficits as a sacrifice for this amazing gift of sight but no one listens. But you hope with all your heart that someone, someday will finally hear you. 

Now...replace sightedness with a known disability and read this again.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

6 Signs You Are Living in a Mental Health Fantasy Bubble

You believe…


1) Calling 911 for a mental health emergency means trained “help” will arrive soon.
Reality? It is more likely the local untrained (lethally armed) police will be dispatched and potentially make the situation more volatile and deadly.
http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/ct-quintonio-legrier-police-shooting-20151231-story.html
http://www.washingtonpost.com/sf/investigative/2015/06/30/distraught-people-deadly-results/
http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2015/03/methods-that-cops-use-with-the-mentally-ill-are-madness/388610/


2) There are medical professionals that understand mental health issues waiting nearby to help in a crisis
when needed.

Reality? They are very few mental health or medical professionals available for crisis intervention. Most rural areas do not have crisis teams and defer to the 911 dispatch for a mental health crisis. 
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16328582
https://www.ruralhealthinfo.org/topics/mental-health


3) There are medications that actually work and with few side effects.
Reality? Few medications work all the time and often only provide some relief. Many if not all of them have undesirable side effects – some of which cannot be tolerated and can even be fatal.
https://umm.edu/health/medical/ency/articles/serotonin-syndrome
http://www.webmd.com/schizophrenia/neuroleptic-malignant-syndrome
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7841868


4) Public spaces are safe spaces.
Reality? When one has to worry about their behavior being reported to authorities as odd or deviant, one is never safe in public spaces. See #1 above.
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/news/robert-ethan-saylor-death/

5) There are a variety of options for treating and living with mental health issues that are not restrictive and readily available.
Reality? Treatment today consists of medication (see #3 above) and for those who can afford it, psychological/behavioral interventions. There is a shortage in most areas for these services as well as a lack of consistency for providing evidence based programs and having the funds to pay for them. Most people do not receive the treatments or services they need. For those experiencing severe crisis, inpatient treatment consists of an extremely restrictive placement where patients are treated much like criminals. There are few supports available if any, for those living in their own homes. Worse, there is no tolerance by society for minor behavioral differences and so those who present with such differences are forced to either fit in or avoid public spaces (see #4 above).
http://files.cfra.org/pdf/Mental-Health-Overlooked-and-Disregarded-in-Rural-America.pdf

5) Seeing a host of mental health and medical professionals guarantees one is receiving a high level of care.
Reality? The quality of care a patient gets is often left up to a combination of how diligent and educated about their diagnosis the patient is, luck – falling in with some good doctors and providers, and how close to metropolitan areas one lives – the closer to a city, the better the selection of services and providers. Even so, most medical doctors do not inquire about a patient's mental health. Most mental health providers do not communicate with the medical providers due to privacy law inconveniences.
http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2015/02/11/no-coordination-mental-health/23242035/
http://www.apa.org/about/gr/issues/cyf/child-quality.aspx


6) Suicide prevention hotlines consist of help on the other end.
Reality? Sometimes they give little advice such as “go take more meds” or even attempt to involve authorities (see calling 911 above).
http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2015/05/28/man-calls-suicide-line-police-kill-him.html
http://www.fastcompany.com/3017444/fast-feed/woman-calls-suicide-hotline-to-help-a-friend-gets-told-to-google-it
http://downtrend.com/robertgehl/air-force-veteran-calls-suicide-hotline-for-help-gets-put-on-hold


It is noble to spread Internet memes telling folks to reach out for help. But we need to put our money where our mouths are. The mental health help of television and movies is pure fantasy. It would be so easy if only the care was actually there.