How does the process of stigmatizing affect people with disabilities? How has your understanding of stigma shaped what path you chose to pursue in life?
Slow. Stupid. Weirdo. These labels are used far too frequently to describe people with disabilities who do nothing to deserve these heavy stigmas. I have worked closely with many children and adults who hear these harsh words on a daily basis, even though they are in no way accurate depictions of their characters. In working as an intern, observer, and camp counselor at a pediatric occupational therapy office, I discovered the traits that made each of the kids I worked with outstanding human beings, as well as some of the circumstances that made them less than confident to openly be themselves. Many of the children feared rejection and being made fun of by their peers, so much so that they were profoundly withdrawn from social interactions. Beyond that, they hesitated to try new things or demonstrate their skills, as they were afraid of the intense criticism they could face. Imagining the new heights that these children could reach if their efforts were not obscured by the fear of this kind of mistreatment lights a fire under me to make that fear disappear. Drunk. Crazy. Frightening. Although it breaks my heart to say, my own mother has been called these things that do not represent her authentic self in any way, shape, or form. She often slurs her words, struggles to make herself understood, and appears misshapen upon first glance. To the ignorant eyes of many, these symptoms seem to be the result of alcoholism or even insanity. To the patient eyes and hearts of people who take the time to inquire without passing judgment, her slurred words and struggle to speak is the result of vocal tremors and her misshapen demeanor is the consequence of dystonia raising one shoulder above the other and stiffening several parts of her body. She is not an alcoholic or a mental patient, but even if she were, she would have deserved the exact same respect and compassion as anyone else. My mother has Parkinson’s disease. People brutally misinterpret what they see without considering the severe repercussions of their actions. My goal as a future occupational therapist is to change that for good. After my mother required invasive hip, neck, and back surgery as a result of both Parkinson’s and osteoarthritis, I realized that the occupational therapists helping her to recover and reorient herself into doing everyday things were making the most difference in helping her heal out of anyone in the hospital. Most doctors were cold, coarse, and dismissive towards her, but every occupational therapist we encountered was gentle, patient, and eager to help. In observing these OTs in action, I figured out exactly what I wanted to spend the rest of my life doing: helping rehabilitate people with debilitating illnesses or circumstances back into the everyday routines that made them happy, thriving individuals. Not only could I fulfill my dream of helping people lead independent, self-fulfilling lives in a genuine and meaningful way, but I could also eventually become my mom’s own occupational therapist. After all, she abhorred having to make endless amounts of doctor’s visits on top of everything else she was already grappling with. Are you sure you know what type of future you are setting yourself up for? Sociology majors have no chance at a fruitful career. This is yet another type of stigma that circulates in the world, this time one that is often targeted at me. From the first time I learned about the topic, I was intrigued by the concept of studying how and why people interact the way they do. Now that I am one semester away from having a sociology degree, the investigative and analytical skills I have gained from studying human behavior are coalescing in a substantial way: I feel confident applying the skills I have gained to each new subject and hurdle I approach. Additionally, being a social justice minor has given me the tools to approach all topics with a unique, open-minded perspective. For example, I connected my experience as an intern to the field of social justice in a research project detailing what it means to be a culturally competent OT, exploring a completely new side of a world in which I was so fascinated. Just like the kids I worked with, I used to be provoked into hesitancy by these insulting words. Now, I will not let anyone tell me who I am or what I am capable of, because I am the only one who decides that. Tough. Driven. Relentless. These are the words I want the world to consider regarding individuals with disabilities, taking the time to go beyond a superficial first impression rooted in nothing but ignorance. One of the things I am most passionate about is eliminating stigma by imploring people to intend kindness in their interactions with all human beings, to give them the benefit of the doubt, and to remember that each person wrestles with their own challenges. Nobody gets to choose the hands they are dealt, but we all get to choose how we treat each other. Here is my humble proposal: choose to intend kindness in every interaction, no matter what.
Explain how society shapes conventional ideas of beauty and fitness.
Contrary to how it may present itself, the health and fitness industry is centered around profiting from a person's failure to achieve the perfect body that so many companies promise their customers. This is because the more a person fails to get fit, the more diet pills and gym memberships they will invest in. This health and fitness ideal is constructed by what mainstream society and media tell us we need to look like, which is based on the trends of the most privileged people in society.
What is the difference between a semi-colon and a colon?
A semi-colon is used to separate two independent clauses that are related, but each of which could stand on its own; a colon is used before giving a list or definition of the information that preceded it. A colon can also be used to expand upon a point or to paraphrase.