Your Normal Is Not Everyone Else’s Normal
The year 2020 has been one rollercoaster ride. We jumped right on board and welcomed the new year with festivities and wished for another prosperous one. However, this year caught us by surprise with the global COVID-19 pandemic. We now live in the so-called “new normal” where we share less physical contact with people and observe social distancing, thoroughly practice proper hygiene and sanitation, and wear personal protective equipment daily. But before the “new normal” we had “normal” and we barely remember what that felt like.
For most people “normal” dictated the average or the standard wherein you managed to belong to the middle level of human abilities — not different, not odd, or not standing out. Most of our younger selves would agree that fitting into the standard of being “normal” is a good and safe place for a kid like us. It seemed like a mark of acceptance into society that we were “normal” and that we would grow up to be “normal” thinking everyone is striving for the same kind of normal. But then we grow up and realize that our normal is not everyone else’s normal.
As we mature and slowly discover the world outside our safe place, we notice how there was never really one true normal. Human beings are unique creatures and perhaps each one of us have our own definition of normal or belong to a certain definition of what normal is with people alike. We are either born or developed different by race, gender, religion, culture, abilities, and whatnot but essentially we are all humans. That differentiation shouldn’t separate us or hinder connections from other people who define normal differently. It’s not a bad thing to be different from what is normal in where you grew up, maybe your being different is normal someplace else and that’s equally beautiful.
At least once in our life, we meet people with disabilities, and we may or may not think of them differently. For most, it’s the former and that is because of what the idea of “normal” is that has been instilled in us growing up. Some would think that they are not normal simply because they are not like able-bodied people in certain aspects.
We have to understand that we were all not made from one mold like vases or pots, we were made unique. Each with a different mind capable to excel and be brilliant in different areas. People born with disabilities are not completely disabled, they each have areas wherein they excel, but they are just not as able as everyone else in other aspects. Those who developed disabilities after living for quite some time still have the skills and abilities that they were born with, learned, and developed living as a non-disabled. The point is, despite the disability, they are just as important as the ones who fit into society’s definition of “normal”.
These people have their own normal and it is much more challenging for them to be part of the community because they will most likely not be able to do the usual things we do to get something done, but they can deliver just the same. So, what is normal for us may or may not be normal for them and the mundane things we casually do may not be ordinary to them. Yet we live in the same world with the same standards and the same eyes that scrutinize. If that is the reality that they have to live with who helps them then?
We often get that unexplainable feeling whenever we see these people struggle to live well and be part of the community but only a few people actually do something about it. Individuals who make a constant conscious effort to help them find ways, so they are able to do just as much as everyone else. Direct support professionals are one of those who provide concrete solutions to that heartfelt emotion. They are selfless and passionate people who delicate their lives to understand, guide, and support people with disabilities. Emphasize selfless, because it is not an easy task to take on but definitely a very rewarding one.
They devote not just their time and skills to fulfill work duties but their entire life to their client to show them that their disability does not take away part of them as a person. Just like a puzzle board, it will always bear the whole picture whether it is in place or undone. To see the picture clearly, you have to go through each piece meticulously and put them together. It’s a tedious trial and error process to fill in each space with a part that’s already there to see which fits perfectly and where.
For people with disabilities, direct support professionals piece the picture for each of the clients through keen observations and careful understanding of their behavior and emotions and identify their strengths that can fill in their weaknesses. All the work they do is not only to care for and provide support for the clients but also help them progress and achieve goals, so they slowly become independent. They are being prepared to be introduced or reintroduced to the community so when the time comes that they are able to do well on their own they can fully be part of the community and do well with little help.
In a world that is full of standards to level with, norms to follow, and expectations to meet, people with disabilities are often neglected. This is what makes the work of direct support professionals great, they create a safe place for people with disabilities to figure out what they want, voice out or show how they really feel, and together, know what works best for them. They lovingly craft solutions and routines, a trial and error process that they put to the test, rework, improve, and continually innovate to suit their client best for every situation. And this becomes their routine, their definition of what is “normal” in their lives.