The Privileges of Adult Status
People with developmental disabilities deserve the same rights as adults in society, regardless of ability.
Most people don’t have to earn the respect and privilege that comes from adult status. It is a product of living and comes without consent. For example, at the age of 18 or 19, it is your right to live on your own, sign a lease, buy a car, but most importantly, it is the freedom to live a life that you have always dreamed of.
On the other hand, those who remain at home often have limited freedom because they live under someone else’s roof, which comes with a set of rules. The history of how many people with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities have lived is frightening. Many have or continue to live a sheltered lifestyle, are kept from doing things their peers do, have special diets, are talked to as if they can’t hear, and have a bed time (yes, a bed time).
Often, people with developmental disabilities spend their entire lives trying and failing to be seen as adults, but they shouldn’t even have to try. It is common for someone with less ability to be spoken to as though they are a child; with a higher voice intonation and a condescending rhythm. People with developmental disabilities are often kept from common experiences, such as going to bars, traveling, getting a job, voting, driving, getting married… etc. And even though people who are in the supporting role (parents, guardians, direct support professionals, service coordinators…) are the ones who keep these life experiences from happening, they are the same people who use the absence of these events as an excuse to perpetuate the childlike expectations they already have. How is the person we’re supporting ever going to gain adult status if we use the excuse that he/she “likes cartoons” as our argument, especially when we are the ones who have kept all but cartoons from her/him?
Some guardians may feel comfort in seeing those we support as children when rights are restricted. It might be how we can feel OKAY about assigning bedtimes, scheduling doctors’ appointments, restricting food/drink, managing money, and all the other things we should not do for those we support.
It is our goal at ILC, to see people as the adults they are, and to support them in doing these things for themselves. This requires and perpetuates the respect of adulthood regardless of ability.
Drew Johnson | Director of Training and Development
Hannah Juracek | Marketing Intern