Bowling Alone…NOT!

Julia rags Jerry before bowling

Last Friday the Ranchers went to Bastrop for their regular bowling practice at the Chestnut Square Family Entertainment Center.  Special Olympics competitions are coming up and we do love Special Olympics bowling events!

They were in their usual high spirits, glad to be at the end of a workweek, excited about plans for the weekend.  There were several lanes going, lots of joshing trash talk, and body language verging on the eloquent.

We are not inconscpicous in such a situation.  In fact, we epitomize what many politically correct folks who work with people with intellectual disabilities really, really dislike, to wit:

1.  We go bowling as a group–all 22 of us plus staff.  (Nobody's required to, by the way; they could stay home if they wanted to.)

2.  We are pretty identifiable as a group containing people with intellectual disabilities
(since most of us have Down syndrome, we haven't figured out a way around this.)

Way back when, Jerry had a colleague who got very heated up whenever she beheld such egregiously unacceptable scenes as people with IDs bowling with their peers. 

“It's my goal in life to rid the world of ‘retarded bowling!'” she would say.

Her ideal world was one in which a person with an ID, living alone in an apartment, would be invited by his University of Texas student neighbor to go bowling one fine evening.

Hey, it's a heck of a vision!  I wish it would happen.

And it does, once in a blue moon.  Not to anybody I ever knew, but I've heard about it, though when it does, it's generally part of a bigger plan to get the regular students involved with the “special needs” ones. 

In other words: it's a project, paid or volunteer.

Not that there's anything wrong with that.  It means caring people wanted to reach out and make someone's life better, and devoted time and resources to doing so.  Nothing wrong with that.

But…who's your real buddy?  Who can you stay up late with, laughing and giggling and dreaming of the future?  Who struggles with the same issues you do, which might include lots of things regular folks never give a thought to?  Who shares your dreams of greater independence, maybe marriage or travel?

Who can you relax with and just be yourself?  Ah…the usual suspects: family and friends.

God gave you your family, and thank God He did.  Your brother might get you out of bed by leaning against the wall, placing his feet on your back, and jettisoning you across the room, with the full consent of your parents.  If anybody else did that it would constitute abuse. 

But to your brother you're just a pesky sister your parents told you to wake up, not a person in official need of protection.  Thank God.

Friends, that's a stickier issue.

You're part of a select group, only about 2% of the population.  Finding and keeping friends is a challenge.  The regular kids, however kind (which sometimes they are not) won't be your friends.  The special ed classes will have an assortment of people with wildly different levels of functioning.  If you're really lucky you might find one or two compatible kids during school to do things with.

But when you get out of school, you generally don't even have that. 

That's the reality.

Down Home Ranch was once scorned by a member of the politically correct crowd as a “fake community.”  We don't know what the person who called us that had in mind for a real community, but I do know this.

We have one heck of a good time bowling!