Breaking Down Barriers with the Mentally Challenged

On Thursday, April 5th I along with my friend and Cleveland State of Mind blogging cohort Peter Fenn attended opening day for the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field (read about the experience at Yahoo! Sports). We decided to take The Rapid down to avoid any kind of parking hassles. What does any of this have to do with disabilities? I’m getting there, I promise.

Finally, after 16 innings and five plus hours of baseball Peter and I found ourselves amongst a mass of people walking towards The Rapid station. Suddenly I hear “Your shoe is untied!” I looked to my left to see an individual pointing ahead. By this man’s mannerisms I deduced he is mentally challenged. I followed his finger to see what he was pointing to and I saw a young kid, probably in elementary school, walking with what I’ll assume to be his dad. Glancing down I saw the kid’s right shoe untied.

What occurred next disturbed me a little, at least at first. The father puts his arm around his young son and begins picking up their pace. The reaction seemed like something you might do if a child predator was around. When the father and son could no longer hear me I turned to Peter and commented “That seemed a little unnecessary. All he was trying to do was help.”

The situation made me wonder, “Why?” An answer didn’t take long to come to me. For the record I find this answer an understandable one. By human nature the unknown creates uneasiness. Most people don’t spend time around mentally challenged individuals so they don’t know how to act when an interaction like the above happens.

Honestly, I might have acted the same way a year ago before I started volunteering with Euclid Adult Activities Center, a facility of Cuyahoga County Board of Developmental Disabilities. Yet working with the mentally handicapped has shown me they mostly maintain good intentions.

CCBDD Logo

Cuyahoga County Board of Developmental Disabilities logo Photo: PrtSc Image from cuyahogabdd.org

In conclusion I hope this post stays with you so if you ever experience an encounter like the one I describe here, you can fight your natural instinct to scurry and perhaps instead give a little acknowledgement saying, “Thanks for pointing that out.”

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3 comments on “Breaking Down Barriers with the Mentally Challenged

  1. Heide Braley says:

    It is sad when people react almost rudely, but I do agree that they are usually acting in fear. Both of my parents worked with handicapped children and adults in different scenarios through the years of my childhood and I learned early to be a little more understanding.
    Best wishes to you.

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