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Why do people treat people with physical disabilities

  1. Feb 13, 2010 #1
    As though they also have a mental disability?
    Last edited: Feb 13, 2010
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 13, 2010 #2


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    Good question.

    I don't know how things are where you live, but here in the US things are changing. When I was in grade school some 35 years ago, there were *no* disabled kids in the mainstream classes. Now, it's much more integrated. Kids with physical disabilities are completely mainstreamed. Kids who have mental disability are partially mainstreamed, depending on the extent of their disability.

    So above a certain age, the general public have little experience with people who have physical disabilities. It's just ignorance.
  4. Feb 13, 2010 #3

    I misread. I thought the word "treat" in your subject referred to treating someone medically, and I thought the "they" in your post referred to the people doing the treating.

    So basically I thought you meant was why do the people who treat the physically disabled do what they do as though they have a mental disability.

    Or maybe I didn't misread, jk.
  5. Feb 13, 2010 #4
    This brings to mind a scene in Forest Gump where little Forest had his braced leg stuck while older men sat looking and bearing no intention or desire to offer assistance. It's a sometimes typical scene. I suppose there are as many or more who do step in to help, though. But I see an unhealthy attitude in those people, those who adhere strictly to respecting the "survival of the fittest gets my respect" mentality.

    So, the next time you see a mother struggling to help her child, and churlish old men thumb their noses, be sure to offer a hand to the mother and child. And a back hand to the churlish old men.
  6. Feb 13, 2010 #5


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    It's the same thing with people that are speaking to someone that speaks a different language. Like an Amercian in a foreign country, they think that if they talk REALLY LOUD that the other person will somehow suddenly understand English.
  7. Feb 14, 2010 #6
    So i gotta stop speaking loudly to disabled people?
  8. Feb 14, 2010 #7
    I think it is because our intuition to evaluate intelligence isn't perfect nor unbiased. For example if someone have a very awkward walking style he looks like an idiot.
  9. Feb 14, 2010 #8


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    I think our intuition here is perfectly justified from a biological/evolutionary point of view. Someone disabled can be ill and as such is a possible danger to the herd, so s/he has to be repelled or at best isolated. False decisions - that is, repelling someone healthy - are less dangerous then lack of decision (that is, leaving someone ill in the vicinity). Hence we react how we react.

    Same reasoning behind people preferring those with healthy skin and not those with acne.
  10. Feb 15, 2010 #9


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    Oh who are you all kidding? I talk to most people like they are mentally challenged because I find most people you meet in everyday life seem a bit on the simple side. Well, ok, I don't really do that, but it does seem like the world is full of idiots.
  11. Feb 15, 2010 #10
    Mental disabilities and physical disabilities are both medical disabilities. People with back injury often develop depression, and people with depression often develop heart disease.

    I can remember how cruelly we schoolboys would taunt a mentally retarded ("intellectually disabled") man who cleaned up at the bowling alley. Now, as an adult, I have to live with my own serious mental illness.

    What I am trying to say is that "treating" works both ways.
  12. Feb 15, 2010 #11
    That's a good question, especially given that one doesn't always know what's going on with a physically challenged person. As an example, my friend's brother suffered a brain injury as the result of a disease. The brain injury has left him with difficulties with some motor skills -- he walks awkwardly, his hands and arms don't always go the direction he'd like them to and he has to be very slow and controlled when moving them to achieve what he wants, and his speech is a bit slow and slurred. There isn't one thing wrong with his cognitive skills, though. He's sharp witted, and snarky, and sarcastic, and pretty much the same bright but self-centred so-and-so he was before the brain injury.

    I accompanied him to an outdoor event here a couple of years ago, because, as a result of his physically challenged situation, he was given free tickets to the event, one for him and one for someone to accompany him to help him. Some other friends of mine were going, so I went as the "accompanying person" even though he didn't need one, exactly.

    When we reached the grounds, a nice nice lady was there to greet us. She took Ian by the arm, bent over close to talk to him and spoke to him in a sing-song voice as if he was a very young child. Ian and I just stared at her. I started to say something and Ian whacked my arm. Once we were seated I said to him, "What was up with her?" "They all do it," he said, "they think that if your body doesn't work properly you're stupid or something." It was an interesting experience.
  13. Feb 16, 2010 #12
    Because the person doing the "treatment" has emotional/psychiatric disabilities.
  14. Feb 16, 2010 #13
    I heard of a person judged mentally retarded as a toddler, after being separated from his parents. He was kept caged at an institution in Massachusetts, until it was found over a decade later that he actually signed to a nurse. The resident turned out to live with cerebral palsy and to have normal intelligence, although treated like an animal for so many years.
  15. Feb 16, 2010 #14
    Change has to start somewhere - don't let people get away with derogatory comments or bad behavior.
  16. Feb 16, 2010 #15
    I think it depends on the physical disability. My sister is a quadriplegic, but I haven't noticed anybody treating her as if she has a mental disability.
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