The older I get, the more I have become aware of the lack of social skills people with long term disabilities possess. I contribute this to a number of topics that will be discussed later. In a world centered around social media and gaming, the general population is losing crucial social skills. This means the disabled population is even more at risk for losing these skills.
I understand people with severe disabilities, especially those born with a birth defect, tend to be living on a fixed income as adults. If you can’t work a full time job, chances are you’re going to struggle financially. Social Security Disability income is barely enough to pay the rent.
If you have a severe disability, chances also are you will need some kind of pricy adaptions to even ride in a vehicle. If they are lucky enough to be able to drive, funds are needed to be able to do so with the adaptions. Plus, there are additional expenses such as: the car payment, gas, insurance, and upkeep. These can cost a fortune for someone on that fixed income. Some government funding is available for those vehicle adaptions, but usually are only available for college students and those working. Of course with limited funds to go around these agencies want to help people drive or ride who plan on working full time. The point of these programs is to help with higher education and getting disabled people into the work force. Most of us with severe disabilities physically cannot work full time and if they do, they would lose their much needed medical insurance that the government provides.
Many disabled people need some type of skilled caregiver in order to leave their home. Caregivers and nurses are always at a shortage, especially for those that need ventilator care. Therefore, lots of disabled adults are homebound much of the time. These people can become lonely whose only contact of the day is with nurses, family, or on the telephone and computer.
Children with disabilities are often small and frail, making it easy for adults, especially parents to “baby” or coddle them. These children are seen as “special” or different by the adults around them. This also makes them seen as different through the eyes of their peers. Often Illness, hospitalizations, surgeries, and doctor’s appointments keep them out of many school days. They do not get to ride bikes, play sports, go camping, or even go on sleepovers. So they are generally already missing out on basic childhood events. At least having schools adapt for a disabled student lets the child be around their peers and gets them out of the house.
As a teenager, my medical needs kept me from living a “normal” lifestyle. I was trached, on oxygen, and vented at night. Either a nurse or my parents had to be with me at all times. At school I had a trained paraprofessional with me at all times. I grew up this way so it was normal for me. On weekend and in the summer I was often stuck home with a nurse as my mom returned to work. I think due to my attitude and the way I was raised (like everyone else), I had a very social life. I always had friends willing to come to my house to hangout.
I hear about a lot of disabled teens being bullied so badly that they resort to being home-schooled. I was not bullied often, in fact much of the time I was the bully. You know why people bully? Because they can. They find a person that seems weak, such as students who happen to be socially awkward due to lack of social skills. Someone can be physically weak, but without the mental weakness, these people will usually be left alone. Many parents of children who are bullied are overly involved in the situation. I was glad my parents pretty much let me work things out between my peers. It’s a good social skill to have in life. This proves my point mentioned earlier- If adults don’t see you as “special” often kids won’t either. Just because you have a physical weakness does not mean you need to be mentally weak too.
So now we move onto young adults. Young adults most commonly meet new friends or significant others from college, work, or anything that revolves around alcohol. If you can’t get to those places do to funding, transportation, lack of caregivers, and or the disability, you will have a hard time meeting people face to face.
Online is where I really have seen and heard about the disabled (especially men) who lack social skills which can lead to harassing, scaring, and making people mad. Some disabled men want to chat with ladies with the same type of disability. Fine right? It’s fine until they start talking right off the bat about their sex life or lack of it. Um… Creepy! Learning social skills when dealing with the opposite sex are some of the last social skills a person learns. Some say you will never figure out the opposite sex. That may be true, but you should at least know how to have a conversation without scaring the person you are talking to.
I assume disabled men, like all other men are strongly driven by sex. Many disabled people seem too eager to find a relationship and don’t know how to cope when they are rejected. This is also a skill learned over time from participating in the dating world. It’s a hard skill to acquire, nobody wants to be rejected. If you think about it, the disabled may have never participated in having a girlfriend, boyfriend, lover, or hookup. They want one of these things more than anything in the world. We all want companionship and to be thought of in a romantic way, but let’s face it- the general public usually does not think of disabled people in a romantic way.
Being homebound much of the time often means that the disabled turn to the internet to meet the opposite sex. It’s a much easier way to meet people with the same health concerns. These may turn into long distance relationships. Not a lot of people with severe health concerns are going to live in your area, much less someone who you really connect with. Once again, lack of funding and the disability itself makes travel difficult.
Then, there is the lack of sexual education for the disability. Often people with mobility and spinal damage, especially men, have a hard time performing sexually. Doctors and parents need to start as at least teenagers discussing options for a healthy and happy sex life as the disabled person ages. Like most adult men this population does not feel open to always discuss these things with their provider. Now that the disabled are living longer, these ideas need to be implicated.
So all the fore mentioned topics, I believe are part of the problem. Parents teachers, and doctors, need to start at a young age to not make a child who happens to have a disability “special”. Everyone’s child is special, not just yours. Most importantly, I think the term “I can’t” needs to be removed from every household. Find a way you can or count your blessings on what you can do. Also, push your child to get involved in outside of school activities whenever possible. The more they are around their peers and treated as equals, the better. Starting this process early is best.
If you don’t do these things, I feel your child is more likely to grow up to be depressed, lonely, feel sorry for themselves, and unmotivated. It’s hard enough to live with a disability, especially if you have financial troubles. Do your child, students and patients a favor empower them. It will go a long way in their happiness and those around them!