1. Introduction – What is Normal ? :
• I think that I am normal. ( Do others think so ? ) . Similarly, you must be sure that you too are normal. The question then is : Is the third & fourth person normal ?
• Before discussing this issue, we should have a look at ‘what is normal’.
• For machines, ‘Normal’ is defined by a series of Readings.
• The characteristics which everybody in a particular type of specie or group has, are called ‘normal’ for that population. For human beings, having 2 hands, 2 legs, a head & a torso, and standing erect, is ‘normal’. If somebody can not stand erect, then he is not considered to be normal. For birds, having wings is normal .
• Normal in terms of life is not easy to determine. For a person living in a particular society
(or socio-economic environment, or a Group), certain type of behavior would be ‘Normal’ ; while for another different one, the same behavior would be terms as ‘Not Normal’ or Abnormal.
2. ‘Normal’ in terms of Statistics :
• One of the way of defining the Normalcy is through Statistics. For example , in a particular sample or population, we can find the Average, [ either the ‘Mean’ (the arithmetic average), or ‘Median’ , or ‘Mode’ ]. Those items (or persons) having the average value ( or nearer to that value), would be considered to be Normal.
• A better Statistical technique to define Normalcy is ‘The Normal Distribution’.
The Normal Distribution talks of the Mean & the ‘Standard Deviation’ ( Sigma).
• In a Normal Distribution , the items ( or persons) within ‘1 Sigma’ on either side of the ‘Mean’ are approx. 65% of the Total population; those within ‘2 Sigma’ are app. 93 % ; and those within ‘3 Sigma’ are app. 99%.
• So , applying this to humans, we can say that 68% are normal. Those between
68 % & 93 % ( ie. 15% ) are slightly different from normal ( slightly higher or slightly lower ). Those between 93% & 99.7% ( ie a further 6.7 % ) are still further from Normal.
3. This “World of 68 % ” :
• Needless to emphasize the fact that all systems , all facilities etc are geared up for the ‘Normal’ persons , i.e. for the ‘65%’. ( Eg- Most humans are right-handed . So , there are right-handed Hockey-sticks. It is difficult to find left handed Hockey sticks).
• It does mean that, 2/3rd of the ‘population’ dominates the balance 1/3rd !! And , it may be noted that, 1/3rd is a significant part of the ‘population’.
• The 15% ,who are beyond this 68% , do cope up with this ‘world of 68%’ in varying degrees, though they may face some difficulty in doing so . ( e.g.- Don’t we come across references of persons who are ‘brilliant but eccentric’? ).
• The ‘further 6.7%’ find it much more difficult to cope up. We refer to such persons by different names/ terms. Poor fellows!! They pay heavily for being so different !!.
4. Normal & ‘Different from Normal’ :
• The first important point to keep in mind is that , the definition of ‘Normal’ may differ in different circumstances. ( E.G. – Skin colour & features wise, what is ‘Normal’ for a Caucasian is not so for a African or a Far-East-Asian, or vice versa. )
Therefore , suffice it to note that Normal, (& consequently, ‘abnormal’ & ‘sub-normal’), could be different for different groups &/or skill-sets .
• Some posers : How does this ‘World of Normal persons’ refer to those who are different ? How does it look at them ? Does it allow for their being different ? Does it provide systems with a difference for such different persons ? ( e.g. – We still see no ramps in most public buildings, for the convenience of physically handicapped persons).
• * No doubt, we have come a long way since ancient times . In ancient Sparta, the Greeks used to kill weak & handicapped new-borns ! In Mahabharata, Dhrutarashtra was deprived from being a made a King even though he was the elder brother, because he was Blind.
* Today , the members of the society at large are sympathetic towards ‘ persons who are different from Normal ’ ( e.g.- Physically challenged , mentally challenged). Now, the society at least feels that it should do something for those who are so challenged .
* The society at large has come a long way . But there is still a very long way ahead.
There are still a great number of ‘normal’ persons who require an enhancement in their understanding, who need to change their attitude ; there is still a great need for facilities, systems & institutions for development of those who are challenged.
5. Abilities, Mentally Challenged Persons & ‘Frames of Mind’ :
• It has to be admitted that in comparison to physically-challenged persons, the society knows much less about the mentally-challenged persons. Consequently , it cares much less for such persons. The society’s behavior towards them , the treatment meted out to them , the facilities for them , the number of suitable institutions for their education & training, the number of institutions for their rehabilitation & care, all are unsatisfactory ( to put it mildly) , and all this needs a great deal of improvement .
• * Not being an expert , I do not have the capability to discuss issues like autism, Down Syndrome , & the like.
I would like to focus here on those mentally-challenged persons who are on the borderline, i.e. those who are near-normal. ( Sometimes they may be having ‘Minimal Brain Dysfunction’) .
* Moreover, I would also like to highlight ‘ Frames of Mind’ in the context of normalcy & mentally challenged persons.
• The common basis presently used for grading a person’s capability is ‘IQ’ , i.e. ‘Intelligence- Quotient’. Most of us are aware that tests for finding the IQ involve Logical Thinking, Mathematics and Linguistic Ability.
• * Many of us have often read about different lobes of the brain, called by lay persons as ‘right brain’ and left-brain’.
* It is now known that the two lobes have different functions, e.g. one controls numerical ability etc., while the other controls pictorial ability (or visualization) etc.
* It is also known that while some persons are strong in one ability/skill , they may not be so strong in another ability/skill.
* The question therefore is : while IQ is a useful tool, is it sufficient to describe an individual’s abilities by means of IQ alone , should IQ be the only tool to be used as a ‘Standard’ ?
• In one seminar/meeting, I remember meeting a medical doctor , having a Masters Degree in Pediatrics. He said that in school , he was a total ‘failure’ in maths. In his own words, if he had to go into a profession involving mathematics, he would have been a failure in life.
• It would not be out of place to mention an article in Reader’s Digest about a (British) young man. In languages , he was super-intelligent , while he could not even cross a road without help. During a flight from Heathrow to Amsterdam ( which is a fairly short flight) , he was given a book & material on Dutch language, and by the time the flight landed , he was speaking Dutch like a native.
• For that matter , how many great mathematicians or scientists can be great painters or classical musicians ?. Could a Ramanujam be another Bhimsen Joshi ? Similarly, could a Tansen or a Beethoven be a Einstein?
• I myself am an engineer, with a grounding in maths ; and am a fan of literature & music. I am certainly not trying to downgrade mathematics, science or classical arts. (or , even IQ tests, for that matter).
All I am trying here is to highlight that, there are different type of abilities.
• During the past few decades, new measures like ‘EQ’, and concepts like ‘MI’ have started drawing interest.
IQ tests were developed in 1900, and became popular during the First World
War, while other measures have been developed towards the end of the 20th century.
It is necessary to take cognizance of these new concepts.
• Dr. Howard Gardener, a reputed psychologist from USA , in his landmark Book ,
‘Frames of Mind’ , propagates the theory of Multiple Intelligences ( MI ) . The
MI theory could revolutionise the thinking on Intelligence.
Based on his research, Dr. Gardener lists EIGHT types of Intelligences,
one of which is Musical Intelligence.
• These Eight types are :
Spacial, i.e. related to space
• We lay persons should keep all these concepts , examples and perspective in mind when we look at ‘Normalcy’, and at mentally ‘challenged persons’.
• The challenged persons often develop a problem of self-esteem, which is caused by the behavior of world at large. But , if we try to check up , we might find in them some abilities equal to , or even surpassing those of , ‘normal’ persons.
6. Locating & using skills & abilities of near-normal mentally challenged persons :
Some thoughts :
• At the outset, I must acknowledge that NGOs working for development & care of mentally challenged persons are doing a commendable job, a difficult task indeed, which only devoted & dedicated persons can undertake. Hats off to them !
All my effort in the succeeding text is to try to put up some ideas for discussion. The ideas may not be new, but are not found to be implemented commonly.
• *NGOs involve mentally challenged persons in several activities . This helps in developing the self-esteem of the challenged ones .
*These activities include Handicrafts, candle-making, paper-bag making , screen- printing , loom work , embroidery, etc., as well as drawing and sometimes, gardening.
*In one NGO, I came across a novel idea , whereby the complex tasks in an activity are carried out by normal persons while the simpler tasks are handled by challenged persons.
• Here is a suggestion : The mentally challenged persons, particularly the borderline ones,
( i.e. near-normal ones ), could be involved in the activities mentioned below.
Horticulture ; a step ahead from Gardening.
* Particularly , simpler packages like MS Word.
( or similar ones in regional languages).
* Simpler packages involving drawing , painting , graphic-work
or animation could also be tried.
Music – Particularly , Vocal music .
We all have often read about , or experienced, the musical abilities of challenged persons. We are also aware of the soothing effect of music. NGOs are no doubt using music for stress-relief etc. But , I feel that there is good scope for developing the musical talent of challenged persons .
Social Work :
* The borderline( near-normal) persons can certainly be used for social work. Possibly , the NGOs may be using them this way informally ; but this could be done somewhat more formally too.
* I remember reading a case in Reader’s Digest . This was about an American boy who is himself mentally challenged , and who is now ‘working’ as a Social Worker to help other mentally challenged persons. He has made this as his mission .
Some of these ideas , I hope, will help in developing the skills & self-esteem of challenged persons and also increasing their usefulness in the society .
Subhash S. Naik
1, Jay Krupa, TPS-6, Opp. Sambhaji Garden,
Santacruz (W), Mumbai -400054.
eMail : firstname.lastname@example.org