Disabilities in the media

What ideas come to mind when you think of autism? Dyslexia? Cerebral Palsy? Disabilities as a whole? These days, we have increasingly wide access to information about the world around us, and so this means disability awareness has improved. But how does the media affect our understanding?

In many ways, it is all too easy for us to put certain concepts into boxes. For example, when someone talks about dyslexia most people would automatically think of someone who has trouble reading and spelling. We can’t help it, and believe it or not, it is not necessarily a bad thing. The human brain needs to retain information about a topic to draw on whenever that topic is mentioned, so they know roughly what they are dealing with.

The flip side of that thought pattern is that it is all too easy to latch onto stereotypes. We learn from the internet, the news, books and what other people know. It is the media that has the power to inform and misinform, and this is where stereotypes can arise. People have assumed I am slow, a mathematical genius, unemotional, prone to tantrums or even unable to talk! Sometimes you just have to laugh…

Ever heard of the Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon? The protagonist, fifteen year old Christopher, has a photographic memory and knows all the prime numbers to 233, but has no understanding of people at all. A good read, but also an unfortunate misrepresentation of Asperger’s, thanks to whoever wrote the blurb. In other words, stereotypes are often a combination of exaggerated truths and popular myths. I’ve heard it said somewhere that a stereotype is a story but not the whole story. Very well put…whoever originally said that!

And yet, thanks to the ever-developing media, understanding is continuing to grow. You see disabled fictional characters who manage to prove their worth as valuable members of society. Or maybe characters who get to know someone with a certain condition and become a better educated person for it. Ever seen the kids TV show Arthur? Arthur’s friend George spends one episode trying to deal with dyslexia and another befriending a child with Asperger’s Syndrome. And now there is apparently an autistic character on Sesame Street. Fiction does play a part in educating the public.

This is another post based on one of my online Demon articles but what inspired me to put it on my blog now was two blog posts portraying how much prejudice and ignorance there still is. One was about how the author will never love his girlfriend’s autistic toddler (come on, how many non-disabled toddlers are completely angelic? My now-18 year old sister hated the world at that age).

Then this one http://everydayaspergers.com/in-our-defense-another-aspie-basher/ was a reaction to an ignorant article about Asperger’s Syndrome. I would appreciate the witty responses from the author of this blog, but according to the article mentioned in the above post, there is no chance of me ever having a sense of humour. You know, because I have Asperger’s. Obviously.

Got more to say on this topic? Affected by any kind of disability? Interested in the media? Any opinions are more than welcome!

Original article: http://www.demon-media.net/features/disabilities-in-the-media/

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The pet lovers’ dreaded debate part 2

I will never understand dog lovers. Or at least the ones who use this as an excuse to hate cats. Does this mean I have a problem with dogs? I’ve already explained this: not at all. Despite having done a similar rant here, I’ve been feeling a part two for that post brewing for months now. So here goes.

To me, hating an animal feels like more than just opinion. If someone told me they hated the colour blue, or spicy food, or classical music, it honestly wouldn’t bother me. Nor does it offend me when people are afraid of cats. Fear is a tough thing to overcome. But choosing to hate an animal without any real understanding? That’s what feels like prejudice to me. I’ve learned to still like and respect individual cat haters, but as with all prejudices, it will always bother me.

Now dogs need a pack leader, be it themselves or otherwise. This means that a dog would be loyal even to a leader who abused it, because following a leader would feel safer than leaving the group. While this is irrelevant regarding loving human-dog relationships, in this case it is instinct, not love. So why are dogs more compliant than cats in loyalty/obedience studies? They recognise the scientist carrying out the study as a leader to be obeyed. Cats don’t; if they show unconditional affection to a person, it is because they like them, not because they feel they have to. As with people, you have to work on a healthy relationship, not just expect one.

But why do cats slaughter wildlife? It’s instinctive, it’s how they’ve survived and it’s also why we domesticated them. If it’s any reassurance, cats aren’t nearly as responsible for the destruction of wildlife as traffic, pollution and loss of natural habitats by human beings. Similarly, both humans and cats kill for food. Those that don’t live on the streets don’t have to, but the difference is, we choose to kill for food/cruelty/war with other humans, or we can decide not to. Cats, like most animals, don’t have the same decision-making capacity.

Also, unlike us, cats can’t survive without meat. As a vegetarian myself, I would not emphasise this point lightly. It’s also worth noting that if all a kitten learns to hunt is toy mice and pieces of string, then it will grow up to be a pretty poor hunter anyway. Thomas thought that hunting was as simple as charging towards his prey while meowing his head off!

So to wrap up, let animals be animals without being judged or stereotyped. Drop the cat v dog wars. Rather than hating, maybe educate yourself about cats – or any animals or people you don’t get – or just accept what you don’t know and keep an open mind. A passing cat might be worthless to you, but it’s probably someone else’s beloved pet/loyal friend/living mousetrap/hopeless hunter. As the saying goes, one pet owner’s trash is another’s treasure!

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Who says cats don’t like human attention?