Yesterday afternoon, Julianna and I went to talk to the “M3”’s—the third year medical students at the university. They are on an eight-week rotation through the major areas, currently ped’s. They have weekly seminars in which guest lecturers come in to address topics in the field.
I have no idea what other topics they are learning, but the organizers were enthusiastic about having us come in to talk about disability, but specifically Down’s, from the subjective, experiential point of view. When I first floated the idea almost a year ago, the reaction from those I asked was cautious, and it made me pause…for months. But when I floated the idea again six weeks ago, things fell into place effortlessly. The mark of an idea whose time has come, I suppose.
I didn’t know how many students to expect; there were not quite a dozen. I was feeling intimidated by the mystique of the medical field until I walked in and saw how very young they all looked, and how nice. And the fact that they all sat at the back of the room, just like at church or in any other place where people are themselves feeling intimidated and unwilling to be thrust into the limelight. That made me chuckle inside, and I relaxed.
I brought Julianna so they could interact with her; my feeling is that much of the fear of disability comes from the lack of such meaningful interactions. But at first, I thought Julianna was just going to sit in her chair beside me and read her “ABC for You And Me” book, and never even make eye contact. Christian stopped in, and even he got a tepid reaction from her. But he was on his lunch hour, and when he left, she went to the door to say “buh-buh,” and she never came back to me. She started wandering up and down the rows of tables, peering up into people’s faces and waving and smiling until they chuckled and smiled back. She discovered that one of the young women had a stethoscope, and she helped herself. I winced a bit, because we’re trying to teach her that limits apply to her too, but the girl waved it off, and after all, this was what I wanted: for Julianna to get comfortable and to start making connections. Which she did. Using the stethoscope. Now, you might remember that the last time Julianna saw a stethoscope she considered it an instrument of imminent destruction. I couldn’t believe she had now decided it was a toy. She went around the room “listening” to ribs, arms, and bellies (which was particularly cute because the ear buds were nowhere near her ears), and I lost my audience entirely.
Which was, after all, exactly what I had hoped for.
(Note: These pictures were taken yesterday morning. They have nothing to do with the presentation, except that she was being cute with my sunglasses and it was the same day, so I thought they’d do for an illustration.)