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January 2011



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Derek Paravicini

Arlington Times Guest Editorial

Sep 02 2010, 8:55 AM

On a recent Monday afternoon, the rhythm of my day was broken by an excited call from my friend, Dean. He asked if I had seen 60 Minutes the night before and, upon learning that I hadn’t, broke into a vivid description of a segment about a phenomenal young man. Derek Paravicini is a musical savant — with a book, a CD, and sold-out performances around the globe. As Dean ended his passionate account of Derek’s story, he exclaimed how absolutely crazy it is to put labels like blind and disabled on a talent like this.

This was a powerful moment for both Dean and me. For months he has been listening patiently to my frequent rants about the amazing strengths and talents that emerge when people of all abilities — including people with developmental conditions like Down syndrome, cerebral palsy and autism — are fully engaged with each other in schools, in workplaces, and in the community. While not everyone is a savant, the power of Derek’s story is that it got Dean saying, “Holy smokes!” Now Dean himself was on fire to share what he’d seen — a pianist who can play any tune from any era, in any style and any key. And who, as it happens, can’t tell his right hand from his left.

This brings me back to the recurring theme of how much I dislike the word “disability.” Here is a young man with more talent, more ability, than Dean and me (and you) combined. Derek’s musical genius astonishes audiences and his personality charms them. And we’re calling him disabled?

It is dangerous and limiting and wrong to label people in such a dismissive way. I read about another woman with a cognitive condition who came alive and truly expressed herself when performing in the theater, but became an empty shell when reduced to mundane sorting and assembly tasks in a workshop setting. And I know a man with cerebral palsy who was considered “unteachable” as a child and eventually went on to work at SeaTac airport, where he is widely recognized for his encyclopedic knowledge of each plane’s arrival, departure and gate location.

Read in Full:  http://www.pnwlocalnews.com/north_sound/arl/opinion/102065218.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+northsoundopinion+(Opinion+-+North+Sound)

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