Yesterday I spent the day doing a workshop with kids with learning disabilities. I came away having learnt the disabilities I have lived with, that I was never aware of ..
Yes, some of the kids, aged between 12 and 17 were physically challenged. But all of them were acutely intelligent. Some were lost within themselves and I found were absolutely terrorized by a need to ‘perform’ to prove they were normal. So had a problem with even responding to questions.
Some were so comfortable about talking about their ‘disability to learn’ in such an articulate manner that I was left wondering what their disability was ? Some were poets of such maturity that left me in tears. A couple composed music, wrote songs, played the guitar, and the drums.
I did notice something common. All the parents were anxious to see their children behave ‘normally’. That anxiousness so obviously created pressure on the kids.
What disabilities did I learn about myself ?
I cannot get past reading two pages of a book without getting restless. I never have. I can only write, read or listen in a stream of consciousness. In the ‘zone’ if u like. I obviously have ADD, no more or less than some of the kids I met.
I felt a deep terror in my own heart as I saw a boy grapple with ‘others’ need to perform normally, and his own terror of not bieng able to fullfill those needs. I remember that so well. I live with that even now. I am just naturally shy and have to battle that all the time.
One young girl said that her problem was she could not understand maths. What ? I qualified and worked as an accountant – successfully – but did and still do not have an inability to comprehend numbers. You cannot get me to look at numbers without wanting to instantly run away.
I have become a succesful film maker now. How did I survive ? Were the pressures on me as a kid to be ‘normal’ not as high as they are in the current state of the competetive economy we live in ?
Maybe I don’t know enough, and need to study these kids more to realize the seriousness of the problem in a day to day life. But these kids go to special schools for the ‘normal’ ones will not have them. Or don’t quite know what to do with them.
Maybe they are different. Maybe we are all different. Maybe I am different. Maybe I just survived.
The kids want to make a film. And wanted to know what it should be about. I realized that a lot of what they were doing was directed at pleasing the parents. For example the boy who wrote poetry, wrote the kind of ‘nice’ things that a ‘nice’ boy would be expected to write and show.
But as he very reluctantly showed me his poetry that he had hidden, that he insisted was not really good, it was stunning. It was about loneliness, a longing for a friend, and a secret longing for death. No wonder his parents were a bit embarrased about showing it. Others would have seen their kid as ‘abnormal’. But it was brilliant.
Here’s what I did. I suggested they made a film about absolutely nothing. That right, about nothing. I got them to get up and act in gibberish. The words meaning nothing, and if there was an interpretation, a meaning, it would emerge out of ‘nothing’.
It was fantastic. The moment you took away the need to be normal, to make sense of everything they did, the kids would not stop. The most terrorized got into the act, jumping in and being totally animated.
And thats the film they will make. Each one coming and interacting with the other and doing things with no meaning. After which they will edit the film to what they feel the other person meant. Each person will over-dub the perceived dialogues not of his/her own gibberish, but his co-actors.
I had so much fun. A day of no meaning at all.