The Voiceless: Those With Intellectual Disabilities
As human beings, we all strive to be understood and heard. We want to be accepted for who we are, no matter what our differences are. Those with disabilities are misunderstood quite often, but somehow still manage to be understood and heard. Unfortunately, there are some people whose voices are hidden behind stereotypes and prejudices. They are those with intellectual disabilities.
Intellectual disabilities are defined as, “a disability characterized by significant limitations both in intellectual functioning (reasoning, learning, problem-solving) and in adaptive behavior, which covers a range of everyday social and practical skills.” Because of limitations such as this, their abilities are often misunderstood.
“There are many types of intellectual disability which can involve difficulty communicating, learning, and retaining information.” Just as with any other disability, there are different spheres and a spectrum they lie in. It would be ignorant to assume that all with an intellectual disability are the same.
There are many myths surrounding those with intellectual disabilities They are, but not limited to, not able to learn, not employable, they cannot live independently, not equal; and most shocking, they do not have the same feelings as those without an intellectual disability.
I have had the opportunity to know and work with those with intellectual disabilities, and I know firsthand that these are myths. Not only have I worked with the intellectually disabled, I have had the honor to grow up in a family with a brother who is. My big brother, the light of my life and who means the world to me, Patrick Lavezzo.
Patrick is three years older than me and is like any typical brother, he loved to tease me, but as we grew up, we became very close. Patrick is a slow learner. Sometimes it takes him some time to process what he is learning, but don’t let that fool you. Patrick is one of the most intelligent people I have ever met. He can recall facts like a boss, he is eloquent in his writing, and with a heart of gold, is a gentle giant standing over six feet tall.
Like many with a disability, he faces challenges when looking for a job. Because of his disability, he is misunderstood and misrepresented quite often. When I asked him what his biggest challenge was because of his disability he said, “how to speak up to people.” As I continued to interview him, he expressed his frustrations when looking for a job. I asked him what the biggest challenge was and he told me, “No one hiring me because I have a slow learning disability.”
Many people jump to the conclusion that because someone may have an intellectual disability that they are not capable of work. From the time I have spent with Patrick and the work I have done, I have learned that those with intellectual disabilities are some of the hardest workers I know. Longstanding stereotypes continue to put barriers up.
Patrick knows his worth and knows what he is capable of. Although he has insecurities from the prejudice he has faced, he also knows his strengths. I asked him if he had the opportunity to tell a future employer about him and his disability, he said, “I would tell them I might have a disability, but can do the job as well as others who don’t have a disability.” I completely agree with him. He has an eye for detail, he works his tail off, and is one of the most trustworthy people I know.
Although it sometimes takes Patrick a minute to articulate his thoughts into word, they are intelligent, thought-provoking, and always not what I expect. He is patient, kind, and loving; and my children and grandchildren adore him. I could speak volumes about Patrick’s abilities, but I think what he has to share with others is the best, “Don’t let your disability get in the way if you want employment.”
Just because those with intellectual disabilities have a hard time with learning or communicating does not mean they are any less intelligent or capable. Being given the chance to shine is the only thing they ask, and I think it is something we owe them. We are willing to give able-bodied people the benefit of the doubt, why not them?