Working and living within the intellectually disabled community, I found that there are many common bits of misinformation and urban legends that haunt our population. These distortions diminish all of us. Here are a few of the most common misunderstandings.
- They don’t understand insults or compliments. The fact is that they love compliments and completely understand insults. Their feelings can be hurt and they are as sensitive as any other person.
- They are dangerous and cannot be trusted. While they are people and can do harm to themselves and others, in reality, our population is usually eager to please. In addition, they are much more apt to harm themselves than someone else.
- They are over-sexed individuals, especially the men. Most developmentally disabled women want to have babies; but they are not usually interested in sex for any number of reasons. Men who have had sexual experiences are always more aware than men who have not experimented with sex. However, in most cases, the hormones of men and women who are mentally challenged are not underdeveloped.
- Individuals who are mentally challenged are loud and unpleasant. The personalities of people who are mentally challenged are as varied and complicated as any other people’s group.
- All people born with Down’s Syndrome are sweet and compliant. While there are those with the typical personality attributed to a person born with Down’s, they too have a variety of personality types.
- People who are mentally challenged are God’s special children. This usually means that they are exempt from sin; and they are given a “get-out-of-jail-free card” in regard to the judgment of God. The reality is that they need salvation and discipleship just like everyone else. There are some people who will never obtain an age of accountability because their IQ is extremely low. Yet, we have seen exceptionally low functioning individuals eagerly accept the claims of Christ, and their lives change as a result of their salvation experience.
- They can never understand the plan of salvation because their minds are too simple. Everyone can understand “Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so.” This is the essence of God’s salvation plan provided by Jesus.
- People who are intellectually disabled are especially gifted in spiritual areas. As with other people, there are women and men who hear from God in unique way within our population. Nevertheless, there are also people who don’t even care about the things of God. They are no more gifted than any other person who care nothing about God.
- When you meet one mentally challenged person, you have met them all because they are all just alike. This community is extremely diverse. Not only are their personalities different but they also have disabilities that are varied and different, adding texture and interesting flavors to their uniqueness.
- Medication should be given to modify every behavior. Medications are important and they are a wonderful gift for modern man. Nevertheless, discipline can be learned by our population. At times, habits are formed; but they can be broken by godly teachings.
There are other misunderstandings that float through the larger population regarding this interesting sub-culture. Yet, God has made every person uniquely his treasure. It is up to us to turn our hearts and lives over to this loving Father. Is there an interesting person who is mentally challenged that you have met? What are some of their characteristics that interest you?