When “different abilities” becomes “disabilities”

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Automatic thinking & prejudice

Last semester, I was working on a project with a school that is specialized in special needs’ education. I had a wonderful experience by getting exposed to such a pure world that’s full of faith and determination. The project’s objective was to change people’s schemas and construal toward kids with special needs. We wanted to change those looks that are full of pity; we wanted to tell people STOP DISCRIMINATING. Those kids have different needs than that of the others, consequently, they have different abilities that are nevertheless brilliant. Therefore, we wanted to show the world that those kids are capable of things that we are not. So why the pity look? Why the prejudice against them. Most of us think that we empathize with those kids and their families. And that we appreciate their different needs. In fact, most of us hold a modern racism and in reality people actually sympathize and not empathize. Moreover, they have some stereotypes that lead to prejudice against them. Unfortunately, one of the most prejudice behaviors that I’ve witnessed is that I saw mom’s trying to take their kids away from playing with other kids that have special needs as they want to “protect” their children from them. For me this is the rudest thing anyone could do. Children are socialized and primed to perceive the other kids with different needs as “out- group” this is a result of the institutional discrimination that is present in most of the schools in Egypt. Schools either have a special needs section that is usually full of corruption or they don’t even accept them. You don’t find classes that integrate special needs with other students. Therefore, according to the social learning theory, children learn this social behavior by observing their school teachers and others around them and imitate them. While the injunctive norms dictate that we should not discriminate those kids and that we should behave in appreciation for their different abilities. Yet, the descriptive norms don’t match those injunctive norms and people act differently toward those kids regardless of it being disapproved.  People’s automatic thinking makes them judge people for their disability before getting to know who they really are. They automatically make the discrimination and behave accordingly. This video portrays the fact that even if some people have different abilities they can still live like others. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=StwSnjtMkxQ I believe that the extent of the support and respect that the people surrounding them show them and treat them as being alike without showing any kind of discrimination the more likely that the differences are eliminated. Or else self-fulfilling prophecy will take over and they won’t be able to see that they are capable of living like everyone else on this planet they will conform to the stereotype threat and will live their lives as different and isolated.

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