12 Oct No Assumptions, Please!
Hi, I’m Angela Bettoni and I’m 19 years old. I have Down’s Syndrome but that does not mean that I think about it much because that it is not all who I am. Last year I started Opening Doors. I’m glad that I am going there because it allows me to inspire those people who have disabilities not to be afraid of making their voices heard. I was happy when Opening Doors asked me to write a blog for them because I love writing. I have written and self-published 4 books and I’m always writing so if you were to spot me, I would be the one with a pen in hand and an open lined book on my lap. You can find out more about my writing at https://angelabettoni.net/ and https://m.facebook.com/Angela-Bettoni-Writer-with-Downs-Syndrome-107653574331072/?tsid=0.9962460010791196&source=result
Why have I chosen this title for my blog? I can talk on behalf of myself and I chose this title because I wanted to share some of the things I have experienced. This does not happen often to me but when it does then I would say that I feel hurt and those are the times when I do feel that I have Down’s Syndrome.
Last year we were staying at the seaside in Italy and I happened to be in front of the restaurant looking in through the window looking at the decorations of the Ferragosto (Santa Marjia) lunch. Now there were curtains hanging on the windows of the restaurant, so I was peering in the corner of the curtains to get a better look. A cute young Italian waiter saw me looking and decided to entertain me and began playing peekaboo with me! Now that was just embarrassing for me. The night after the peekaboo game I was having a pre-celebration for my 18th birthday and a beautiful chocolate cake with 18 candles was brought by the cook to me. Remember our friend the waiter from the night before? Well he was there as well attending another table and of course the thing with birthday cakes you always want to see or know whose birthday is being celebrated so that’s exactly what happened. He saw the 18 candles was for me. It was his turn to be embarrassed now knowing how old I was!
The thing about assumptions, they can hurt. It can hurt a lot. Just try going to the doctor’s and the guy assumes that you can’t write or walk and how much you feel like a little child in his eyes, seriously I never felt so bad about myself. Another time I was at another doctor’s this time with my mum and the stuff which the doctor was saying was obviously intended to me but was spoken to my mum.
One afternoon this summer in Malta I was at the beach at Golden Bay with my parents and the car had a flat tire. At first my mum accompanied me to the beach and set up the mat for me and I took my book to read while she was with my dad to help him out with the car. So, I was alone on the mat underneath the beautiful setting sun reading my book. Probably it was the location I was in on the beach because then I got mothers, young women and young men coming up to me from the water asking me these questions: “Are you alright?”, “ Are you alone?”, “Where are your parents?” I was obviously surprised I wasn’t expecting all of this. So, I plastered on this smile, looked at them and told each one of them, “I’m alright. My parents will be coming soon, they won’t be long”. But the worst part was when a group of teenagers around my age, a bunch of boys and girls came up to me and the boys seemed to notice me first. They got down on one knee on the sand looked at me and said,” hey are you ok? Do you want us to stay here with you till your parents come?” That was probably the worst, having boys in my own age group saying that to me as if I was just a cute lost little girl whom they found on the beach alone. All of that when I was only trying to read in peace. (Of course I knew that this is was all well-intentioned but that is what I felt)
Since last year when I began my advanced diploma in performing arts at MCAST Mosta, I have been taking the bus to and fro from home. Now you may be amazed saying “Can you believe it? She takes the bus! So independent. What an accomplishment!” Accomplishment? It took me a lot of time to learn how to take the bus. One time I was going back home from school and I was looking at the wrong direction, and I saw the bus with the same number which I was going to take. So, I raced across the road assuming that was the bus I was taking, the one which would take me home. When I realized that I was going the wrong way and my phone was ringing, I knew who was calling (my dad) I panicked. In the end I got some help from three old ladies. Once I got out of the bus, I looked around to see where I was. It was a place which I had never been before. When my dad called me again and asked me where I was, I said I was going back to school. When he said that he was in the car coming to the school to pick me up I decided to get back to the school before he did so that I looked like I was there all the time waiting for him to come. So I tore across the field, running like my life depended on it, waited for about two cars to pass me before I tore across the road and flew straight in front of the school and threw myself inside the gates of the school and took out my phone to make it look like I was on my phone all the time! The next time I was at the correct bus stop (correct direction) but looking at the wrong direction so the bus passed me by without stopping! Another time I was at the bus stop again going home from school and once again I missed the bus. So, I decided to go to another bus stop. The road was terrible. While I was walking my dad called me to see where I was and to rush me to get to the bus stop on time of course with my phone in hand when I fell into a hole with my phone but at least nothing bad happened to the phone but I was so near in spraining my ankle. I was lucky to get on the correct bus that time! But all of this didn’t make me lose hope or faith in myself. My friends and parents never gave up hope in me in taking the bus and they all really encouraged and pushed me on until I became good at it.
Another thing you must know about me is that I like being babied when I’m at home. It might be a bit too much, but I don’t mind it. For example this morning I watched the cartoon version of ‘Mulan’ after I managed to sweet talk my mum to make me my breakfast (guilty pleasure!). To be honest with you I find it easier to do that at home because it is me going by my own terms.
I know that it’s true that at times I do need to be treated differently or need extra help in the classroom or something has to be adapted for me which most preferably needs to be first discussed with me. My take home message for readers today is ‘No assumptions please’.