The dictionary definition in noun form is – The usual, average or typical state or condition.
The dictionary definition in adjective form is – conforming to a standard; usual, typical or expected.
My definition is that there is no definition of normal – it is an illusion. It is something made up to keep us reaching for something that doesn’t exist, something to keep us all feeling less than in some way. That word has been something we all have struggled to attain, rebel against, break the standards of or just plain ignore. That word along with others that describe normal such as typical, average in my sons world comes with a weight no child should have to bear. It sets an imaginary, unreachable bar that does only harm, no good.
My son is diagnosed with Dyslexia is considered Atypical Autistic and struggles with something called Dysgraphia. I do not use these words to put my son in a box to say that he is those things only because he is not, they are part of him, part of what makes him special, unique, creative, kind and so many other awesome non-normal words. I have attended dozens of IEP meetings all of which tell you a whole lot of what your child isn’t doing, cant do and will never do. I have sat across from teachers, support staff of all kinds, therapists, administration and so many with so many letters after their names and none of them can tell you who Clinton really is. They will highlight his deficits, his struggles, his challenges, label him lazy, distracted, disruptive completely omitting his diagnosis and proceed to teach him in the “normal” way, change nothing about their teaching styles and continue to blame him for not learning their way.
I, myself was diagnosed as a teenager with Bi-Polar 2 disorder. The dictionary definition of disorder as a noun is – a state of confusion. The dictionary definition of disorder as a verb is – disrupt the systematic functioning or neat arrangement of. Folks my mind has never been in neat arrangement and nor would I want it to be, but I am far crazy, psychotic, violent, aggressive or unstable. Yet, when you are diagnosed with this disorder these are the hurtful, ignorant words you are called. I was placed on high doses of mood stabilizers, anti-depressants, hospitalized, given intensive therapy and not once did anyone ever ask me how I was doing, how I felt or what I thought might help. I was told what to do, what to take, how to be and if I strayed for the normal track everyone was trying to put me on I was called crazy, imbalanced, manic, unstable, mad or told I didn’t know what I was talking out because I was all those things. I remember feeling and still feel at times like my voice has been ripped from my throat as though my words even if they could get out fall on truly deaf ears.
I never want my son to feel as though his voice does not matter or that he gets no vote in how he is taught. I want him to self-advocate to the best of his ability and know I will listen. I want that for every child. I want to strip down theses “normal” barriers that society has constructed and tear them down. I do not want children to feel less than because they learn in a different way, I want teachers to teach according to the student not standardized tests or scores that in the grand scheme of things mean nothing. I want us all to lose the word Normal. Normal is an illusion. The dictionary definition of illusion is – a false idea or belief; a deceptive appearance or impression.
Think of how many children sit in a classroom everyday thinking that something is wrong with them because they don’t fit “normal” standards or have “normal” testing scores. Think of how these children struggle to sit still because their brilliance cant be given a number, their creativity has no chance to shine so they dull that shine to fit in with a “normal” system that is failing them. Their bullied in the classroom, at lunch, at recess, on the bus, by their classmates, teachers and adults and they are told if they cant learn this way then there is no may for them. We wonder why we so many children are plagued with depression, anxiety, drop out, act out or give up? because we are asking them to fit into a box that doesn’t even exist. We are asking to reach for something that shouldn’t define them in anyway. We are asking them to not be who they are.
Isn’t it about time we remove the “normal” from our vocabulary? I think it is.