Don’t Tell Me I’m Normal

By Hana Epstein, Counselor and Art Specialist at GFC. Hana won second prize in our staff essay contest . This is based on the Ted Talk: Faith Jegede: What I’ve learned from my autistic brothers

Abnormal. Odd. Ludicrous. Different. Silly. Weird. During the school year, some of these traits, that make us who we are, that make us unique, are put on the backburner. Students of all ages are told to sit still and not to talk. Students are expected to fit into molds that society has deemed “acceptable.” During the summer, especially at camp, those same people, exhibiting those traits, are celebrated for what makes them unique.

Prior to pre-camp staff training, I had never seen anyTED Talks videos, but now I have seen half a dozen or so. Out of all the videos I watched, the one that spoke to me the most made its main point in the first twenty two seconds. Filmed in April of 2012 Faith Jegede gave a talk entitled “What I’ve Learned From My Autistic Brothers.” The first words out of Jegede’s mouth were “Today, I have just one request. Please don’t tell me I’m normal.” Now, think about that. “Don’t tell me I’m normal.”

 As we get older we realize that differences are a good thing if we want to stand out. If we stand out we may be more likely to get a job, or a promotion. But as children, standing out is just about the last thing we want. If you’re seven years old you want to be on the same little league team as all your classmates so you don’t feel like the odd one out. If you’re thirteen years old, sitting in class on a day a presentation is due, you’re probably crouching in your desk, just hoping the teacher won’t call your name and make you present today. If you’re sixteen years old you want to have the same clothes as your friends so you just blend in with the crowd. During the school year kids want to blend in because that’s the norm. But at camp, kids learn to stand out and to accept and appreciate the differences in every person that crosses their path.

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