Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Character in Me & You

A few times now I have discussed with a few others (not on this blog) the subject of Disability versus Personality. So, I thought I'd share my feelings on the subject; a combination on the discussions I've had.

First, according to Wikipedia:

A disability may be physical, cognitive, mental, sensory, emotional, developmental or some combination of these. A disability may be present from birth, or occur during a person's lifetime.
Disabilities is an umbrella term, covering impairments, activity limitations, and participation restrictions. An impairment is a problem in body function or structure; an activity limitation is a difficulty encountered by an individual in executing a task or action; while a participation restriction is a problem experienced by an individual in involvement in life situations. Thus disability is a complex phenomenon, reflecting an interaction between features of a person’s body and features of the society in which he or she lives.

Personality is the particular combination of emotional, attitudinal, and behavioral response patterns of an individual.

The definitions are fairly different, especially in length.
While it may be difficult to see how a physical disability can affect or be compared to personality, let me reassure you, (in my humble opinion) it can. All disabilities, whether physical or not, (visible or invisible) can have an effect on a person's psyche...... the degree of that effect can of course vary.
A person who acquires a disability may not be as jovial or outgoing as he or she once was. Or, in fact, they may become more comical in some things because they feel the need to cover up other insecurities. There is a fine line between disability and personality and hopefully each individual can see that for themselves, it only helps in knowing true self awareness.

For example: I have a difficulty in participating in group settings; getting my thoughts straight and just understanding everything being said is what I concentrate on. I'll admit that in certain social settings as opposed to business ones this can be a little easier. But still, it is a difficulty I have and this is because of my disability...... I just can't keep up with certain things. Now, on the occasion, I have been called out on this, with someone poking fun at my non-yammering.
When I don't pull that individual aside to stand up for myself and explain my difficulties, that's my personality..... my shy and quiet personality that tends to persuade me to not to stand up for myself and allow the traffic to run me over. (not literally!)

I once heard this story about a mom questioning whether her child's outburst at the age of three was due to that child's personality of a three year old having a typical temper tantrum or if it was because of the ADHD the doctor diagnosed that kid of having. My first question is how does a kid at three get diagnosed ADHD? I'll admit, I don't know a whole lot about ADHD, but I don't think I've ever met a kid (or rarely) under the age of five (and I've met quite a few kids) that hasn't had a problem with attention or has never been hyper.
This also raises the question, what if this kid never acquired ADHD and was born with it? Is there even a difference between personality and disability if someone is born with a disability?

But my real question, and this one relates to all disabilities, is, does it matter?
Does it matter where the disability ends and the personality begins?

Disability may offer explanations to certain challenges and/or barriers, but ones disability should not be an excuse for bad behavior or missed opportunities or a reason for not living life. Just as I would hope someone's personality does not become the "cry me a river" saga or worse, self denial that may lead to misery and/or unhealthy living.
Like I said, it is a fine line. But I don't like to think in terms of personality versus disability. I mean, there may be quite a few people out there that would like to get to know my personality, but not many who would have the patience or understanding for my disability. So instead I like to think of them both as parts that make up what really counts: Character.

Character, or character structure, is a system of relatively permanent traits that are manifested in the specific ways that an individual relates and reacts to others, to various kinds of stimuli, and to the environment..... how the individual meets the psychosocial challenges of the life cycle.

That "life cycle", that "stimuli", includes disability, personality, experiences, (past & present) relationships,...... the list can go on and on. But what it comes down to is, we are who we are. All that I just mentioned, and more, is our make-up of life. There is no reason to shy away from them or be ashamed; and as long as we know that there are different traits that make up us, there is no need to worry about and separate them.

Character is what matters.

1 comment:

  1. You are beyond right, Mark, character is what really matters!

    And I'm with you on that diagnosis, how can you tell a 3yo has ADHD? He may be hyperactive, but I don't know how to tell the rest of the ADD.
    It's not like diagnosing Autism, which can in fact be done at an early age...

    However, I do feel that it's wrong for people to judge based on one's disability, and also wrong to simply ignore it.
    I had tutored a student with ADHD. I'm not a doctor or anything, but have read up on it; and even with a doctor's diagnosis, the kid's teachers simply ignored it. They said he was just lazy and that was it. It made me extremely angry that they'd just dismiss him like that, when he clearly couldn't focus.
    I worked with him one on one, I saw that he knew what we were learning and in five minutes looked at me as if he'd never heard of it before in his life. But his teachers never gave him a chance. He's now in 9th grade and had to leave that school in choice of a less good one... It makes me so sad!