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What is ‘normal?’ PDF Print E-mail
Written by Erika Schmidt Russell   
Wednesday, October 10, 2012 8:56 PM

Once upon a time 40 years ago a young couple were told their daughter would never speak “normally.”

The baby girl had a cleft palate and cleft lip. The parents didn’t believe that advice, and put in many, many hours of working with her and a speech therapist.

When the girl was 17, she landed a part in the school play - a speaking part.

When she was in college, she was part of her college radio station doing news on-air.

That baby/girl was me. I’ve been thinking a lot about what is normal.


There is no normal. All of us have different talents and abilities. A friend has a daughter who has symbrachydactyly, which is basically a person born with missing or malformed fingers or hand. That little girl is normal.

She can climb, color do everything every other 3-year-old can. Other people like her are mixed martial arts fighters, musicians and more.

Each one of us has a different normal. I have another friend who was born with profound hearing loss.

While her hearing loss is mostly correctable through hearing aids, it wasn’t always easy for her. She, like me, had speech therapy. She’s normal, and she’s still mad that I puked during her turn at show-and-tell in kindergarten.

In today’s paper I wrote a story about Megan Burger. She has Downs Syndrome. She is normal. She can do things I can’t do - such as quilting.

She reads books and watches movies just like every other 17-year-old. She giggles and roles her eyes at adults just like every other 17-year-old. Just like other 17-year-olds she can be shy until you get to know her. I count it as fortunate I got to meet her.

We ran a story about a baby boy in Ohio County who was born with some pretty severe birth “defects” last year and a benefit to help his parents with medical expenses. Those defects and any others are only defects if we let them be defects.

Aimee Bruder may be in a wheelchair because of cerebal palsy, but that doesn’t make her any less of an athlete. She’s trained hard to become a great swimmer, and overcome many obstacles. Just like any other athlete.

She was at her sixth Paralympic Games in August-September. And our sports editor Jim Buchberger treats Aimee just like any other world-class athlete with a story and photos.
Each one of us can define our own normal. We don’t have to accept what experts tell us.

We all complain and whine about minor inconveniences, but at the end of the day we need to step back and count our blessings. I know I don’t do that nearly enough.

So the next time you see someone who is different, and pity that person because they can’t walk or are missing a hand or they can’t hear or see, stop and ask yourself if they’re different or if YOU are.


Erika Schmidt Russell is editor of The Journal-Press and The Dearborn County Register.