Weekly, our library open its doors to a group of teenagers. They’re coming from a Medical Educational Institute and they’re all either mentally ill or neurodivergents.
It’s pretty great, because the kids can choose everything they want, without being controlled (the only limitation being the fact that they can’t take much more than one book and one CD per week and per person), and they’re happy to be there.
Unfortunately, my planning doesn’t allow me to spend a lot of time with them, even though we get along very well (one girl actually asked me for dating advice, while i was recommending her a book. I didn’t dare to tell her that i actually had no practical experience in this matter.).
I noticed quite rapidly that the volunteer workers at my library have a really hard time to be “at ease” with them. The worst was probably yesterday, when a volunteer worker came to me, asking me frantically to deal with a teenager instead of her.
He had a speech impediment and, as far as i know, was probably neurodivergent. He wanted a rap CD, but didn’t know what to look for. I kid you not, this volunteer worker came to me and said to me, with a despicable tone :
“You have to help me. I can’t understand him at all, not a word, and he’s typing on the computer right now, i’m not even sure he can’t read.”
She looked… afraid. And more than patronizing, she seemed to look down on him like he was nothing. I didn’t have the time to say anything to her, but damn, i wish i had just threw at her every insult i could think of.
Instead, i just went to see this teenager, who was with his educator. I found him a few CDs, i hope he’ll like them.
But anyway, i heard his educator talking to one of my colleagues after that, saying that he was happy that i actually talked directly to the kid and not to him and that he’ll be sure to talk to me again if he’s in need of advice in the future.
And i’m just… sad. Sad to see that assuming competence about a disabled teenager is something that is worthy of “congratulations”. I just talked to them the way i like to be adressed. There’s nothing wonderful about it. It should be… normal.