The person with an intellectual disability
An intellectual disability can strike a child at conception (genetic disease such as Downs Syndrome) or in his mother’s womb (following a disease or an accident). It can be caused by a traumatism at birth. Later on, a child or adult may be affected by a disease or an accident which causes brain damage, and which can have after-effects on an intellectual and often also a motor level. However, in many cases the cause of the intellectual disability remains a mystery. The child’s development is noticed, as it is slower than that of other children, and the acquisition of language and walking comes much later, or sometimes not at all.
If the child feels that he is not accepted, and perhaps even that he is rejected, then he risks withdrawing completely into his own world, where it is very difficult to reach him. Sometimes he can become aggressive or violent.
A person with an intellectual disability may be limited in his intellectual and possibly psychomotor capacities, however he is not limited in his capacity to love. In the emotional domain, he is often even much more gifted than others. If a person is surrounded by affection and esteem for himself as a unique and irreplaceable being, if people have been able to create an atmosphere of peace and joy around that person, then that person will be capable of making real progress in these areas. One can discover in the person with a intellectual disability qualities such as giving a warm welcome, being filled with wonder, simplicity, truthfulness. In his fragile state, he awakens in those around him basic human values such as listening to others, and other gifts that are often smothered in the quest for money, success and power.
In society, the person with a intellectual disability is all too often rejected and despised. Despite much progress in areas such as equipment, financial support, integration in the school environment and in the work place, a great amount of ambivalence is still noticeable. In France, a law on abortion allows a handicapped child to be eliminated in his mother’s womb up until the day previous to his birth date. A law on euthanasia is often evoked.
Numerous parents, professionals and associations, among which Faith and Light, are working hard to ensure that the human dignity of each and every person right from his conception is recognised and respected. Each human being is unique and has his own specific vocation.