Prejudice and discrimination

Although we do not like to admit it, we all have prejudices. However in  fair society  we must try to  ensure that our prejudices do not become discrimination.

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My sons  – both black and disabled!

Prejudice is an unjustified or inaccurate attitude towards an individual based solely on the individual’s membership of a  group. Many people will have prejudices against people  with disability, people of a different colour or those who are different from them in some way. They may think that having children with disabilities in their school will affect the progress of other children; they may think that all people  with disabilities are stupid, difficult or incapable of following the regular curriculum, unable to work, have relationships or be full members of society. Although it would be better if we  were not prejudiced, must of us are, one way or another, we  to ensure that prejudices do not become discrimination. We have to be sure that we do not discriminate, whatever our personal prejudices may be. Discrimination occurs when an individual or group behave in a negative way towards an individual or group of people, such as people with disabilities. A prejudiced person may not act on their attitude. So someone can be prejudiced towards a certain group but not discriminate against them. Discrimination involves behaviour and that is what we  can control – we  cannot control attitudes. But you may think otherwise! However, prejudiced attitudes are often changed when people have contact with the group they were prejudiced against. They realise that their attitudes were inaccurate. However, close contact sometimes hardens prejudices. Why not challenge yourself to think about prejudice and discrimination. What should the education system be doing to challenge this discrimination? Think about what you could do. What could you do yourself to challenge this discrimination? Whose discriminatory behaviour should you challenge? Think about yourself.  What are your prejudices? Is any of your own behaviour discriminatory? Remember that disabled people can be equally prejudiced, as can black people and other groups who are themselves the victims  of prejudice and discrimination.

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Living with autism – a sister’s story

It’s often difficult for people with a disability to lead an ordinary life but  it’s often difficult for family members too.  Family members may feel that they cannot express their true feelings. Emma, whose story is set out here, bravely sets down her feelings about her brother’s autism. Her story is included here to show just how difficult it can be to live with a severely autistic sibling – and to show that it is OK to express negative feelings. We don’t have to be saints!

I have never accepted my brother’s autism and have found it very difficult to deal with. His name is Daniel, and he has severe autism. I am 18 years old, and he is 16, with the mind of an infant. I shall never hear my brother say my name. He cannot speak, is still in nappies, and has been living in a special care home for four years due to his unmanageable behaviour. Whilst I was growing up, I found life very difficult. I buried my head in class work and focused on getting the best out of life. I am going to university soon and I am immensely proud of what I managed to achieve despite everything that was going on around me

. After my brother was diagnosed with autism at the age of two, my life turned upside down. For the next 10 years, social workers and helpers would constantly be in-and-out of the house, discussing my brother’s needs. Conversations between friends and family would often be related to Daniel, and disability.

I missed out on many normal things in my childhood. My parents tried to make time, but they were often too stressed and preoccupied with managing my brother to listen to my worries. I would often shut myself in my room and cry, while my brother watched ‘Jungle Book’ for the 1000th time, making a big noise downstairs. He would wake up in the middle of the night and kick my bedroom wall, making sleeping a difficult task in my house. Doors, windows and cupboards had to be locked and I couldn’t leave out any toys, school or art work because they would get eaten or ruined.

On a few occasions, my brother managed to escape from the house and ended up on a nearby road. I’ve always thought that he’s like a cat with nine lives. Once, I forgot to shut the front door of the house when I was watering my plant in the front garden and he ended up on a platform of the nearby train station. I hate to imagine the guilt I would have lived with from the age of 10, had anything happened to him

. I wish I could accept his autism, and perhaps I shall in time. I suppose I just need to move on from imagining the ‘what if?’ life I could have had with a normal sibling, a close friend you grow older and shared special occasions with. I have so many memories of my brother running around the house naked before his bath, or running into my room screaming or trying to hit or bite my parents. It felt like he always had an excuse for bad behaviour. On other occasions, he was funny and would just keep himself happy

. I often fear the future. I fear what would happen if my parents died and I’d be his only family left. I fear that my own children which I so long to have in the future, will be severely autistic too. I am sad that he will miss out on life’s beauty, will never have children of his own, and will never be able to live without care.

I wish he could talk to me, and I wish I could be strong enough to visit him once in a while. But I find it so hard to see my teenage brother getting older in appearance but remain the same in mental age. Mum and I have often said how we wish he could stop growing and remain a little child forever. I hope one day I stop feeling jealous of my friends and family with normal siblings. I hope one day my relationship with other members of my family will not be so strained. Although I still get depressed about having an autistic brother, I have definitely learnt to appreciate life. I work hard towards a life I am grateful to have. I am compassionate towards those in need, and don’t worry about trivial things. I am so close to my mum, and I love spending time with her, as well as my cousins when I can see them.

I don’t hate my brother – I hate autism, and what it’s done to my family.

Click here to go to the website of The National  Autistic Society for information about autism

Smart answers needed

Divya Babba, a 19 year old wheelchair user with spinal muscular atrophy, reveals the offensive, ridiculous and frankly absurd things people say to wheelchair users.

Have you experienced these, or similar,comments or questions? If you have, or even if you haven’t, can you suggest suitable responses?

I was having dinner and, when it was my turn to order, the waiter pointed at me and asked my friend, “And what will she have?”

This wasn’t the first time that someone had underestimated my ability to think and speak. When you’re in a wheelchair, people often think your disability affects your brain and not just your body. The unfamiliarity of being around a disabled person can cause people to come out with the most absurd things. Do they see the unexpected and panic? Are they just ignorant? Maybe a bit of both. Either way, here’s my top pick of the most ridiculous FAQs and opening gambits:
1. “So, what’s wrong with you?” – Many people are under the impression that this is the conversational equivalent of “How are you?” It’s not.
2. “Can you have sex?” – Last time I checked, I still had all my lady parts.
3. “Do you sleep in your chair?” – Just because I can’t walk, it doesn’t mean that I can’t sleep in a bed.
4. “If I were in your shoes, I would never be able to leave the house.”– You’d feel differently if you were. Everybody learns to cope with his/her disadvantages.
5. “You’re so pretty, even though you’re in a wheelchair.” – Thanks!
6. “You should really try to walk instead of relying on your wheelchair. It might help.” – I would if I could, don’t ya think?
7. “Why do you wear shoes if you don’t need them?” – First of all, shoes are fashionable. Second, they keep your feet warm. Third, do you take your shoes off every time you sit down?
8. “Do you have a licence for that thing?” – This question is usually accompanied by a chuckle… it’s not funny.
9. “Do you ever wish that your siblings were disabled instead of you?” – I was asked this question at a university interview and was too stunned to retort, “Do you ever wish your siblings were socially inept instead of you?”
10. “You’re actually really smart. Wow!”
11. “You’re so lucky you use a wheelchair and can sit down all day!” – Oh boy, I know, livin’ the dream.
12. “Can I please pray for you?”– No thanks, I’m fine. Pray for people who are starving or dying in war.
13. “Be careful not to run me over!” – Believe me, if I run you over, it won’t be a mistake.

Click here to see other articles by Divya