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Young Voices – Disability Pride

by Mary Mazzoni on February 5, 2012

Young adults are speaking out on YouTube and other social media.

Are we listening?

More and more youth with disabilities who know and love themselves well are talking about how their disability is part of who they are. They’re celebrating their contribution to the beautiful diversity of the human experience.

These young people speak of being grateful for and proud of their whole selves. They’re taking their place in a larger community, a larger story that sees and honors the gifts all people contribute to our society.

We may find ourselves feeling uncomfortable if we truly listen to these young people. That discomfort is good! It means we’re allowing ourselves to really receive the gift they’re giving us. We’re being asked to look more closely at our unexamined perspectives. To see and hear each young person as an individual and to let go of stereotypes and assumptions we didn’t even know we had.

Really listening

Let’s take some time to center ourselves and listen to each person intentionally.

Have a notebook handy so you can jot down phrases that really impact you. Some words may resonate with a deep inner “yes”. You may also find your muscles tighten with an inner bracing when you hear other words. Write down any phrase that affects you.

After experiencing a video, spend a little time with the phrases you’ve written down. Are you drawn to journal about them? Maybe you’d like to put one of the phrases on a sticky note and revisit it over time. Or maybe you’re led to invite someone to view and discuss the video with you.

We’re very used to quickly watching video clips and then forwarding them on to others before clicking the next link. Let’s listen to and savor what these young people have to say in a deeper, more intentional way.

With gratitude to each speaker, here are the videos:

  1. What disability pride means to me – Michigan Disability Rights Coalition
  2. Let’s talk about neurodiversity - zikasilver1
  3. Youth Credo –

Examining our filters

It’s a real challenge to truly listen to another person. That’s because we humans perceive each other through the filters of our own experience.

It’s particularly difficult for parents to really listen to our adolescent children. We are from different generations, and this is the time when our kids are learning who they are – separate from us. Add to that the fact that most parents don’t have a personal experience of disability similar to their kids. And sometimes, kids communicate through behavior rather than through words. All these factors make truly listening to our kids a real challenge.

Our kids long for us to genuinely listen to them. As we allow ourselves to deeply consider what other young people have to say – we examine the filters through which we listen to our own kids. When we are aware of our filters, we can more fully be present with and listen to our child’s unique voice.

Disability history

How much disability history did you learn growing up? Any? Me neither.

Many young people are hungry to learn how people with disabilities have impacted our world. Learning about disability history can impact the lens through which our kids see themselves and their potential contributions.

If you want to see what we all missed in history class, check out these sites. The more I learn, the more I want to learn. But be warned. Some of the video interviews and historic clips will make you uncomfortable.

Your turn

Did listening to the young people in the videos prompt you to examine the filters through which you listen to your own child? What particular phrases most impacted you? Please share in the comments. Let’s get a conversation going!

If you found this post valuable, please share it. Thanks!

Image credit – Liber at Flicker

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Sue Doohan February 6, 2012 at 4:38 am

People my age … let’s just say I’m old enough to have watched Bertie the Bunyip on TV … can find today’s rapidly advancing technology more of an aggravation than a blessing because we went through the process of defining ourselves when it seemed like most of society was like Leave it to Beaver or Father Knows Best. Even “The Life of Reilly” was pretty much how we expected to live our lives. Back then, people my age with disabilities were most likely NOT living the life of Reilly… most of them were not considered “challenged”, they were regarded as something to be kept kindly in hiding, some of them maybe not so kindly.

In middle age I worked in group homes for adult and aging folks with mental and physical difficuties. I remember being told it was a good thing institutions for such people were being phased out in favor of establishing group homes because thanks to early intervention (the equivalent of “new technology” then) there would be fewer and fewer folks needing separate housing and care arrangements. Most group homes were simply mini-institutions caring for stereotypes.

Today’s technology puts the transition from stereotype to unique individual right in our face, up front and personal … because we need to see.


Mary February 6, 2012 at 7:35 am

Thanks so much for sharing your perspective, Sue!

I completely agree that we DO “need to see” – and hear – each other. The unique gifts and perspective of every person enriches our lives, our world, in beautiful ways. Eyes to see and ears to hear each other is what I wish for us all!


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