WHEN A FLOWER DOESN’T BLOOM, YOU FIX THE ENVIRONMENT, NOT THE FLOWER. Alexander Den Heijer
One of my favorite passions is gardening. I love to nurture and grow flowers and plants. I had ones that have grown with ease and marveled in their beauty. I also had others that have not grown as easily and required extra tender loving care. When a flower doesn’t bloom people don’t try to fix the flower, but the reasons that it’s not thriving. People may try giving it more sun, or more shade. Other interventions could be changing the amount of watering or a different types of soil. Each of these changes the environment the flower is growing in, but not the flower itself. Having a disability, I have often failed to bloom the way most people expected. Most people try to find ways to fix me, but not the culture that I live in.
Having the diagnosis of a Learning Disability is frequently not the problem. I have gone through the process of acceppting my disability and have learned ways to live in a world not made for me. The issue often is that other people aren’t as accepting of my disabilty and thinking the answer to my difficulites is to cure it. When I tell people that I struggle with math they offer basic math education courses. What most people don’t understand is most of the information that they cover, will be of little benefit. I have tried unsuccessfully for years tried to understand math and only have a limited understanding of it. Many people also say “But it’s so easy!” or “The answer is right in front of you!” Math may be easy for a person who is good at it and many of them can see the obvious answer. For a person with a math disability, it’s simply not easy and can’t see the answer.
Most people wouldn’t tell a person in a wheelchair to walk up the steps. Few people would judge them for not being able to use the stairs or think of them as lazy. Most people would understand that they couldn’t use the stairs because of a physcial disability. They would look for ways to change the enviroment with accomoations such as an elevator, but not change the person. The Americans with Disabilites Act mandated that people with disabilies receive accommodations, and that community places needed to be handicaped accesible.
Sadly the same understanding given to a person with a physical disability, is often not given to people who have hidden ones. Just because you can’t see my disability doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist or doesn’t give me difficulties. I may not fit a mold of what a disability is, but each person with one is different.
Even when accommodations are used to help a person with one, the goal is not to cure it, but how to manage it. Strategies such as extended test time and having the test read aloud, help to process information better, but it doesn’t get rid of it. Having explicit clear instructions can help me perform well at my job, but doesn’t cure my executive functionating issues. Typing stories and reports makes other people understand my thoughts, but doesn’t make my handwriting neater. Graduating high school didn’t cure it and neither did a college degree.
When people try to cure rather than accept it quickly turns to Ableism. Ableism is discrimination of a person based on their disability and favors a person without one. Having a disability isn’t shameful or something that needs to be changed. At times having one creates challenges and would be more convenient not to have one. Most of these difficulties require creative problem solving, that change the environment not the person itself.
Whether people accept my disability or not I will find a way to bloom. My bloom of accomplishments may not look like everyone else’s and that’s okay. Other people may flourish more and be what the world considers to be brighter. Others may look at my blooms and not see a flower but weeds. I will tend to the environmental factors that I do have control over and focus on what I can do. I may not be good with numbers but I’m better with words. I may not be able to drive, but I can walk or get a ride to where I need to go. None of these solutions, will cure my disability but can help to create an environment for me to grow and thrive. One day I dream of a world that works to accept and embrace all people despite their differences. Until that day comes all I can do is focus on what works for me and help to create a world that works together to change the environment not the person.