What is Normal? Who is Normal?

“But you seem so normal!” It was a phrase in a post from Deafmom, a post she titled “You’re not really deaf, are you?” This one got me thinking – a dangerous pastime, I know.

Normal = neuro-typical, non disabled.
Normal = typical, following the norm.
Normal = expected, unsurprising.
Normal = cool forehead, no fever.
Normal = just another sheep following the herd.

Is Normal good or bad? Is Normal something in between? Is Normal a comfort level, don’t rock the boat, or is Normal that’s-the-way-we’ve-always-done-it?

  • Does Normal have an IEP (Individualized Education Plan)?
  • Does Normal need an adapted cell phone?
  • Does Normal stay in the background or insist on action?
  • Is Normal pink, red, or mauve?
  • Does Normal get on the right track, just stand there and wait to get run over?
  • Does Normal slow for yellow lights or speed up?
  • Does Normal walk to school or take her lunch?

The last one is the really telling question. “Normal” in the sense of non-disabled or neuro-typical is a label that doesn’t really make sense. It implies that the disabled person is someone out of the norm, out of the mainstream, off the track. It implies that the person with a disability isn’t one of the crowd, sticks out, doesn’t belong.

“Normal” doesn’t need to go the way of the R-word (retarded). Normal is, after all, a city in Illinois. But all of us, not just the so-called Normal folk, need to think before we speak. Telling a disabled person that they are not Normal is inaccurate, hurtful, and just wrong.

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6 thoughts on “What is Normal? Who is Normal?

  1. >I'm not disabled, but I have never ever considered myself normal. Lots of disabled people are probably far more "normal" than I am. Quite frankly, once I get to know people better, I don't think there's any such thing as normal.

  2. >"But you don't look sick" is what I hear. I have Fibromyalgia. I walk fine and I look fine but I'm in a lot of pain most of the time and many other issues.

    I'm glad I look fine, don't want people feel sorry for me. Just wish they would believe me when I say I don't feel good lol.

  3. >Great point. My son accuses us often of "not being normal" and I ask him what he means by that…he says we're just so "weird." Not sure what the "normal baseline" looks like these days anyway!

  4. >What a great post! I think that people can be so insensitive to those of us with let's say, idiosyncracies. That's what I like to call it, makes me feel better, and who doesn't have a
    weird side?

  5. >When someone at work comments on someone being an oddball, I usually pipe in with "We're all a bunch of odd ducks here". Which, in fact, we are.

    As we all go to our own family Thanksgiving feast (here in America, anyway), the vast majority only have to look around to verify that there is a wide diversity in the type of people that make up our own families. And if we all come from families that aren't exactly "normal", then what exactly is "normal"?

    Joe

  6. >What about using the word "typical", as in "neurotypical" or "typical 4th graders"?

    Typical people may or may not be "normal", but it's a useful word than "normal".

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