Social activities for retarded people?

I was talking with a good friend of mine last night whose brother Steve is mildly retarded. Steve is very high functioning (works, shops, cooks, etc.) and a really great person, positive and friendly all the time. He is certainly not low functioning enough to benefit from living in a group home but he is low enough to be aware of the fact that he is different. He hangs out with us at parties amd we see concerts together (he loves Chick Corea and Bela Fleck which should tell you just how cool he is) but he really needs some friends who are like him.
And so, as we were talking, I was thinking how great it is that I have access to the greatest source of information on the planet.
He is currently living with his mom in NJ close to NYC. Does anyone know how to find out about any communities or social functions, any organizations or anything of the like that Steve might enjoy.

Thank you all in advance.

Um, if he’s so high functioning, why the need to find him some “special” activities? He doesn’t need friends who are “like him”, i.e. “REE-tards”, he just needs “friends”. Period.

And a “REE-tard” who’s high functioning isn’t going to be comforted somehow by hanging around with other “REE-tards”. He’s actually going to dislike it. He’d much rather be with “normal” people who actually like him, especially if he knows he’s “different”. He understands how the rest of the world sees him, and fitting in with the “normal” world means much more to him than fitting in with the gang down at the Sheltered Care Workshop.

I spent 2+ years as the live-in employee/housekeeper/cook/bottlewasher/handholder/bathgiver/wet pants changer in an Adult Foster Care Home in Michigan, and trust me, he doesn’t wanna hang with the REE-tards, Moe. If he’s high enough functioning that he “knows he’s different”, then golly, he sure doesn’t wanna be reminded of it. “Bowling a few lines tonight with the REE-tards?”

I know you mean well, but sheesh.

Duck Duck Goose is probably right (although you weren’t terribly kind about it, DDG ;)!). My daughter is also disabled – orthopedically not cognitively – and it sounds like she and your friend are in about the same boat function-wise (although with differing impairments). Dori has CP and is moderately impaired – she walks with crutches. A few years ago her dad and I decided that she was losing out by not knowing any other kids “like her.” So we sent her to a week-long wheelchair camp. She hated it. A lot. And has refused to do anything similar since. Turns out that all of the kids at the camp were much more severely impaired than she is, and so she wasn’t “like them” either. She said she’s gotten used to the idea (after 13 years!) that there is noone “like her.” And she says that’s just fine. She’s had better luck finding friends through the usual outlets – school, church and hobbies – even though she’s usually the only disabled person in her group. Instead of finding a social club for your friend that stresses his disability, why not help him find a hobby or interest that will help him find a social life in a natural way. A sport is good, if he likes that kind of thing – bowling, or baseball or maybe he could join a gym. You see what I mean. And good for you for worrying about him and wanting to help. You’re a good friend.

I don’t know about that.

I actually briefly dated a man who had mild CP. He walked with a cane and that was all that was wrong with him.

He was great fun, but had quite the drinking problem (not that you could tell by the way he walked), otherwise I probably would have dated him for longer.

Thank you Jess for being so kind, but no I don’t think DDG was right at all. It was very well intentioned of you to send Dori to that camp but from your own words it seems she didn’t like because

That was my whole point about why Steve shouldn’t be in a group home.

I’m sure that because DDG is such a wonderful human being, s(he) probably has very close relationships with those people she so affectionately refers to as “REE-tards” (I’ll make sure to consult my pc dictionary next time :rolleyes:), i.e. mutually fulfilling social exchanges which serve emotionally supportive functions.

Steve isn’t a child. I believe he’s in his early 30’s (maybe late 20’s) and he still at this point in his life has no real “friends”. Why is fitting in to the “normal” world so important? Why is being reminded of being different bad? Should he be ashamed of his disability? Besides, it seems to me that hanging out with people who do not share his disabilty is a much more blatant reminder of his limitations.

He does hang out with “normal” people. He is present at all our big parties whenever possible and there is always great people around. No one ever patronizes him; everyone is genuine, and we all always have a great time. But it’s not a social life, not a complete one anyway. There are things I’m sure he’d like to talk about that we just can’t relate to. Not the kind of things that you talk about with counselors but that you talk about with friends.

Now, if anyone would like to help me out with my OP I’d appreciate it.

Oops, I guess I should’ve previewed. It’s quite embarrassing to find out that during a sarcastic rant instead of :rolleyes: you get a :slight_smile:

I’ve spent some time this afternoon, Moe, thinking about what would be a parallel to mental retardation, what analogy I could make to get my point across, about not going out of your way to find him friends who are also retarded. What could you put in your thread title in place of “retarded people”?

The problem is that mental retardation is such a hazy area. How do you define it? What’s the difference between “retarded” and merely “slow”? That’s my point–that you shouldn’t try to find him “retarded” friends, because everybody draws the line in a different place. Maybe he doesn’t think of himself as “retarded”, or maybe the people you’re going to chat up as potential “retarded” friends for your “retarded” friend don’t think of themselves as retarded, either.

It’s different from something like cystic fibrosis, where you’ve got a definite syndrome or condition, a disease. Then, sure, you’ve got all kinds of support groups and social activities, because people with cystic fibrosis share the same physical limitations, the same physical (and sometimes mental) parameters. For example, they share the awareness of the potentially life-threatening aspect of their condition. But being “retarded” can mean vastly different things to the people who are labeled thus.

Also, being “retarded” is different from something like being blind or deaf. If your thread title said, “Social activities for blind people”, it would be a sensible question. There is a need for special activities for blind people. They have to be organized in a particular way. However, this is not true for the mentally retarded. When you take a group of retarded people bowling, you don’t need to make special arrangements ahead of time with the bowling alley.

So, the closest I could come to a parallel would be “gay”. Like mental retardation, it’s not an illness. It’s not something you can take medication for. It’s not something that’s “going to get better”. It’s something you’re born with. It’s something you can’t do anything about. It’s something that isn’t immediately obvious to people you meet on the street. It’s something that eludes strict definition–are you gay or are you bisexual? Does having one homosexual experience make you “gay”? Do you refer to yourself as “gay”? Just how “gay” are you?

Rephrase your thread title to read, “Social activities for gay people,” and maybe you’ll see how offensive I found it.

See what I mean? :wink:

DDG, the problem with that analogy is that there are resources/support groups/etc for gay people. Moe’s friend is walking the line between one world and another.

However, I do think that he would much rather be percieved as normal, with normal friends, than find a group of other slow people to hang with.

After all, I’m not a genius, but I sure like to hang out with you guys. :wink:

Alrighty-then. Hows this, Moe? A link to The Association for Retarded Citizens. When we were looking for that camp for Dori, our first stop was the local chapter of United Cerbral Palsy – they were able to give us contact numbers for all the activities for the disabled in our area. There were tons of things for all age groups: support groups, parties, dances, trips and tours – you name it. Go to above link and click on “local chapters” there are 7 or 8 in New Jersey – I didn’t look at New York. Since your friend is high functioning, perhaps he will even find a place on the board, or a committee of his local chapter of ARC.

And, Sue? I think most of Dori’s “no one is just like me” thing is adolescent angst. :wink: She is 13 and seems to suffer from a pile of that lately. However, I will say that we’ve met darn few people with CP who fuction at her level (using crutches or a cane exclusively). Actually, now that I think about it, we’ve met none! I imagine that’ll change as she gets older. And I know her perception of her extreme and overwhelming uniqueness will! That perception is called a “personal fable” and it is a stage we all pass through. I’m taking an Adolescent Psych course and it’s fascinating to recognize my homework in my kids!

With all due respect I think you’ve gotten your knickers in such a huge twist about his use of the word “retarded” and the pejorative resonance that use of the word holds for you, that you really are missing his point to a certain extent.

Retarded/differently abled/ special needs/ whatever, there exists a person of somewhat lower than normal mental capacity who the OP feels might possibly benefit from a like kind friend of the same general age they could relate to. I doubt a “Forrest Gump” level intellect is going to concern themselves, as you do, about the fine degrees of separation in intelligence, if they had a friend of the same general intellectual capacity they could intuitively relate to and feel at parity with.

Your personal inclination may be to consider it insulting and condescending to do any other than mainstream “Forrest Gump” type folks. While this may make you feel better I doubt it is necessarily the best thing to do in all situations. If all I could socialize with was people with comparative 240 IQ’s I might think it would be pretty groovy to find someone like myself to hang with.

Oh, my. It always fascinates me how people refer to crips & how they live. I sometimes refer to myself as a crip, so it’s not a derogatory remark.

As for social activities for retarded/Down folks, they do best with their own kind (No surprise there) & every city should or does have an organization where they can meet if you’d just open the phone book & look, you severly-able folks.

It has NOT been proven that disabled people (mentally or physically) do better with “their own kind”. The push over the last two decades has been to incorporate people with disabilities into the rest of the world instead of limiting them to “their own”. For an interesting perspective on the disabled, read “No Pity” by Robert Shapiro. In it, he discusses studies that showed that people with disabilities, particularly mental disabilities, functioned on a MUCH higher level when integrated with the rest of society. Also, if you’re really interested in this topic, read “The A.D.A. Mandate for Social Change”. In it, there are lots of different writings about the disabled and how integrating them into society has helped them be much happier, healthier people.

Moe, the best thing for Steve is to simply ASK him what he wants. If he prefers to be around other people who have mental disabilities, then pursue that route. Chances are, he wants to hang around with anyone, disabled or not.


Zette, are you disabled? Have you worked with the disabled? Are the disabled your main source of friends & socialization? Is that Mr. Shapiro disabled?

You missed the most obvious point, for the most part, a disabled person is NOT disabled when they are with people of similar disability.
e.g. A deaf person is not disabled when they are with deaf people. A person with Down’s or similar, is not disabled with others with that condition. If you don’t believe me, go visit one of their centers.

“The push over the last two decades has been to incorporate people with disabilities into the
rest of the world instead of limiting them to “their own””
Yes, it highly unsuccessful too. It created a lot of very lonely people. I remember when they put people with Downs in my sign classes, they all got ‘F’s’. Mainstreaming is a pretty brilliant idea, but was eventually quite stupid.

Ahhhgh. Jess beat me to it!

I know a number of people who are employed by the ARC in NJ, and I have been to a number of ARC social functions (including shows by excellent local bands). I met a variety of interesting and very nice people at those functions. It seemed that there were people with many different levels of disability involved in the ARC. Perhaps Steve should check it out.

Oh, and p.s.:

There are many different types of group homes for the developmentally disabled. I know a woman (also high functioning, works, shops, etc.) who lives in one and loves it. It is more like sharing a house with friends than what you might think of as a typical “group home.” She is able to live with and socialize with people “like her,” and also get the help that she needs from the non-disableds that work with them. She is very happy there.

handy, this is not an appropriate place to discuss this- Moe was asking specifically for information, which I provided him. I would think that with the amount of time you spend on this board you would remember that I AM indeed disabled due spinal surgery complications. I also have a mentally disabled brother-in-law who lives in a group home, and my college major is in Human Services with a focus on Advocacy for the Disabled. That does not make me an expert, but I certainly think my opinion is valid.

I suggested those readings not because they focus on mainstreaming, but because they contain many examples of mentally disabled people THEMSELVES expressing their dislike of being around others “like them”. In the end, I recommended asking Steve himself what he wanted, and I stand by the assertion.

If you want to start a Great Debate over mainstreaming of the disabled, go ahead. This is not the place for it. I provided two cites for my conclusion that limiting social activities of the disabled to “their own kind” is not always the best solution.

I never said Steve should NOT participate in activities with other mentally disabled people. I pointed out that that may NOT be what he wants, and perhaps he should just be asked about it rather then assuming those are his wishes. That is what social mainstreaming is all about. Not forbidding the disabled from socializing with other disabled people, but letting them have the same choices the rest of us do.

As a side note, I will not be responding to you anymore on these boards, handy. Your inability to see other points of view, as well as your seemingly endless well of misinformation just isn’t worth dealing with any more. I answered this post only so that I was sure Moe understood my points.


This is getting rather into GD territory, wouldn’t you say? I would.

OH, goodie. Moved to GD. :smiley:

Moe, I understand that you’re only trying to be helpful to someone you genuinely care about, but I’d like you to stop and think about all this a little more before you go rushing over to Steve’s house with the exciting news, “Hey, Steve, I found you some retarded friends!” Okay? :wink:

I’m scratching my head ruefully–my point doesn’t seem to be getting across. I’ll try one more time.

Finding friends the same age for a person is something that parents do for children, especially for very small children. When you have a three-year-old, you find a play group composed of Threes for her. You say, “My daughter is three, she needs 3-year-old friends to play with.” When she’s in kindergarten, you find other kindergarteners for her to play with.

However, once she gets to be 16, she resents this. If you say to her, “There’s a new family down the street, and they have a 16-year-old. She might be a good friend for you”, your daughter’s going to give you the big rolleyes :rolleyes: and say, “Oh, Mom…” because by age 16, she wants to choose her own friends. She doesn’t need you to “find” friends for her. She certainly doesn’t want to hear you say, “Sweetie, I’m concerned that you don’t have enough friends. Let me find some other teenagers for you to be friends with.”

If you are going to suggest friends to her, your best bet is to go with “shared interests”. You say to her, “There’s a new family down the street, and they have a 16-year-old who, her mom tells me, is also crazy about Dixie Chicks and has also about worn out her copy of Titanic.” This suggestion is much more likely to be greeted, if not with interest, then at least not with outright contempt.

Another example: my mother is 71, and doesn’t socialize much. So I’m trying to visualize her reaction to my announcement, “Mom, you don’t have many friends. I’m gonna go down to the Senior Center and find you some other 70-something ladies to be your friends.” Somehow I don’t think it would be pretty. She wants to find her own friends, based on shared interests like dollmaking, not based only on their age.

Retarded people are classified by “mental age”. That’s what we mean by the terms “high” and “low” functioning. “Low functioning” means, basically, child-like, maybe 5 to 10 years old, mentally. “High functioning” means more like a teenager. If Steve is high functioning enough to be cooking and shopping, both of which are quite complex activities, demanding something very close to an adult’s competence, then he’s probably closer to 14, mentally, than 10. You don’t say what kind of cooking and shopping he’s doing–a 6-year-old can go out to the kitchen and cook some scrambled eggs, but a Fourteen is competent enough to put together a whole meal, a real meal, not just eggs or sandwiches. And “shopping”, as a skill, is something that even the most competent 10-year-old finds beyond her, in terms of organization and money-handling.

So, I’m postulating that Steve is about 14, mentally, and when you say, “I’m going to find this retarded person some retarded friends”, you are saying, in essence, “I’m going to find this teenager some teenage friends.” You are treating him like a child. You are saying, “You aren’t old enough to be able to find your own friends, so I will find some for you.”

Now do you see where I’m coming from? By all means, find him some friends, but do your searching based on shared interests, not age. He likes Chick Corea? Fine–introduce him to “people who like Chick Corea”, NOT “retarded people who like Chick Corea”. Do you see the difference?

And now I will tell you the story of the two blind girls. When I was a freshman long ago at a very small Midwestern liberal arts college, there were also two blind girls, both freshman. The rest of us all assumed that of course they would be best friends, or at least hang out together, because they were both blind, so they’d have lots in common, right? Wrong. Girl #1 couldn’t stand Girl #2 because, as she pointed out, “She’s a sad sack, a mope, and a general all-around non-stop Pity Party, 'oh, you have to feel sorry for me ‘cause I’m blind.’” And she was right, of course; none of us had been brave (and non-PC) enough to say it out loud.

So, don’t assume that just because two people share a particular physical condition, like being blind, or retarded, or gay, or their age, they’re going to be friends.

And one more thing to address: Why do you feel compelled to find him some friends in the first place? :confused:

Um, says who? :wink: Says you? Did you ask him? Did he say, “I have no friends.” To all external appearances, I myself “have no real friends”, but nobody has ever taken it upon himself to find ME some friends, because people who know me, know that I’d just as soon be left alone–I don’t need a non-stop social whirl to be happy. How do you know he isn’t perfectly happy? He has work. Where does he work? Maybe he gets as much social input as he requires from that.

In your opinion. :slight_smile: Somehow it’s all starting to sound like those people who say, “Oh, I don’t want to have Lassie spayed just yet, I want her to have the experience of having puppies.” How do they know Lassie wants to have the experience of having puppies? Answer–it’s a psychological phenomenon known as “projection”. Lassie’s owner is “projecting” his emotions onto Lassie. He knows how he would feel if he were Lassie–he’d want to have the deep and enriching emotional experience of having puppies. :smiley:

Or like people who say, “I need to get another cat, because Princess has no social life. I’m sure she’d like a little friend…” Princess may put up with having a companion, but maybe she’d just as soon be left alone.

Um, like what? :confused: “What it’s like to be retarded”? “The incredible pressures felt in today’s society by the differently abled?” You make it sound like he’s got an illness like cystic fibrosis that he needs help dealing with. All of us have things we’d like to talk about that our friends can’t relate to, but we deal with that. So can he.

Um, again, like what? All I can think of that you couldn’t talk about with a counselor (I’m assuming you mean “social worker”?) that you could talk about with friends would be either the totally Mundane and Pointless (“Hey, how about this weather?”) or the totally Awesome and Cosmic (“why do people have to die?”) So you feel a need to find him some other retarded friends so he’ll have someone to talk about the weather and death with? He can’t talk about the weather and death with you?


Conversation has nothing to do with IQ. Conversation is about “ideas”. Having a higher or lower IQ has nothing to do with your ideas on the weather, or death. People with low IQs can have some startling insights into both subjects. People with high IQs can sometimes be startlingly clueless. Conversation, however, DOES have to do with “age”, with “maturity”. The kind of conversation you have with a 3-year-old is vastly different from the kind of conversation you have with a 14-year-old, because a Three has vastly different “ideas” than a Fourteen. The difference between the kind of conversation I would have with a member of Mensa and the kind of conversation I would have with Steve would be due to the difference between talking to an adult and talking to a teenager, not because one was “smarter” than the other. And actually, given that Steve is in his 30’s, I would expect to have a sort of “old teenager” conversation with him, on the weather, or death. As retarded people get older, they may not acquire any more IQ points, but they sure do acquire “street smarts”, “life knowledge”, same as anybody else.


I would have to wonder, “Who in the world decided to put Down syndrome people in a sign language class?” They typically have big problems with verbal skills in the first place, and it seems strange to ask them to make the cognitive jump from the hard-wired brain speech-center-driven “words come out your mouth” to the purely artificial “hands make words”.

This doesn’t prove “mainstreaming is a bad idea”. All it proves is that some Down syndrome people can’t learn sign language.

And as for mainstreaming not working, here’s one study.

Notice some of the recommendations:

These are all exactly the opposite of “find the child some similarly retarded friends to socialize with.”

When mainstreaming can be said to have failed, it’s always because the school involved didn’t want to expend either the money or the effort on the mainstreaming attempt, usually because they couldn’t, or wouldn’t, hire the extra teachers or liaison assistants required for it. “Mainstreaming” doesn’t mean just dumping the Down syndrome kid into a regular school and expecting him to deal with it. It takes a lot of work, but if the school is willing to do the work, mainstreaming is considered a success.

DDG, I simply am in awe of that post. Thank you for the detail contained therin. I was so mad over the assertation that societal integration simply doesn’t work (uncited, of course), that I couldn’t begin to formulate an answer that concise.

Many people are grappling with the old ideas that the disabled “belong” together, while those of us who have experienced it first hand and researched the topic know that that is not always the case. Society gets so used to seeing events specifically designed for the mentally disabled, outings by people in group homes, etc that they sometimes forget that the mentally disabled have the right to a choice. If Steve prefers to be around mentally disabled people, that is his choice, the same choice we all have. If he prefers to socialize with non-mentally disabled people, that’s fine too.
The point that you so eloquently made is that it is HIS decision. No one needs to feel sorry for him and find him some mentally disabled friends. Moe’s heart is in the right place, certainly. Introducing Steve to new people who share his interests can open up his opportunities for choice.

I will stand by those assertations and the two particular works I cited earlier. In fact, the book “No Pity” by Shapiro offers great insight into the disability rights movement and integration of the disabled. I think it is a must read for everyone who wants to look at the issues of the disabled from a few points of view.