“Different is the new normal.”
That’s what heavy-metal rocker James Durbin (pictured) remarked on The Ellen DeGeneres Show this month after making it to the final four before being voted off American Idol. The country sound may ultimately have won top spot, but Durbin, who grew up coping with Tourette syndrome and Asperger’s, stole the show.
“It’s so special and so heart-warming to know that not only am I going . . . to try to fulfil my dream but I am also going on to be a voice for people . . . who find it too hard or are too afraid to speak out,” Durbin told DeGeneres, a former Idol judge.“It’s okay to be different, to be weird,” he said, adding that he has embraced his “freakishness.”
Would that we all could come to such a wise self-realization.
Tourette (tourette.ca) is a neurological disorder characterized by involuntary, rapid and repeated movements or vocalizations. Asperger Syndrome (aspergers.ca) is an autism-spectrum disorder that inhibits the ability to interact in society. Kids growing up with either diagnosis battle anxiety, depression, poor self-esteem, bullying and social isolation.
But glimpses into their world are growing more common on television. And with that exposure, we can only hope that the world will realize what Durbin expressed so eloquently.
Among other television shows giving us a look into diverse worlds, Parenthood portrays autism in the character of Max Braverman, who is diagnosed with Asperger’s. (Writer/executive producer Jason Katims has a 13-year-old son with the condition.)
Growing up is hard enough at the best of times. Disability adds one more layer of complexity.
All of which puts me in mind of an intriguing question posed in a recent podcast by the crew at the BBC’s irreverent disability-issues site, Ouch!, (bbc.co.uk/ouch). Knowing what you know now, what would you tell your 16-year-old self if you had the opportunity?
This is an unusually important question for people who are born disabled because “it’s always said that the disability ‘Get It’ moment doesn’t happen until your late 20s,” explains Liz Carr of Ouch!
Among the answers the team came up with: Figure out how to get independent. Understand that you will get through this; you will get a boy/girlfriend. You can’t imagine the amazing things that will happen. Enjoy life. Take strength from other kids with disabilities and embrace difference.
Added reader, Chris Page: “I’d tell myself not to take anything for granted—especially education – and to be more aware of discrimination. I’d also tell myself to stand up to those who bullied me.”
And don’t forget James Durbin.
If you have a chance, check out Front and Centre (arts.on.ca/Page4070.aspx), a celebration of Disability and Deaf Arts at the Art Gallery of Ontario Thurs., June 23. There is no charge but advance registration by June 3 is required.
From 1 to 2:45 p.m., there will be a panel discussion, with artists reflecting on their arts and career development. The panel will be followed by a tour of AGO exhibitions and a reception.
Panelists include media artist Chantal Deguire, percussionist Luis Orbegoso and photographer Jes Sachse. Performing artist Alan Shain will moderate. And I’ll have a few words to say.
ASL interpretation, captioning, attendant care and a quiet, private space will be provided.
The afternoon is hosted by the Ontario Arts Council, the Art Gallery of Ontario and the Canada Council for the Arts.
Saturday, May 28, 2011
The Toronto Star. In the picture, James Durbin is front row, third from left.
Posted by BA Haller at 12:32 PM