As a sibling of someone with an intellectual disability, I find myself constantly slaying dragons.
I can let insults about myself roll off, but insults about my sister are a sure fire way to get my attention (and generally a verbal slap on the wrist). Finding and slaying the dragons was much easier when she and I were in school. When you are around someone most of the day, it’s easy to find out who said or did what and put an end to it. As we have gotten older the dragons are harder to see hidden underneath jeans and a t-shirt.
When I’m no longer around her all the time, I’m not always going to hear the comments or see the interactions. Yes, I realize my sister is an adult and, as some would argue, capable of making her own decisions and slaying her own dragons. Those people have never met and lived with my sister. Nicole has no concept of stranger-danger. Point of fact, Nicole has little concept of danger period. If an ax murderer came up to Nicole covered in blood with a bloody ax in their hands and told her that they were there to pick her up and take her home Nicole would blithely go with them jumping and chattering all the while. I have been teaching Nicole about stranger-danger and how to avoid bad situations all my life and that is one concept that never seems to stick. It’s one of Nicole’s greatest qualities that she doesn’t associate people she doesn’t know with danger, but it’s also her biggest vulnerability. Maybe it makes me cynical to think that people will take advantage of that, but I prefer to think that makes me realistic. As Nicole gets older and creates a life and social circle of her own, it’s harder for me to differentiate the sheep dressed in dragon’s clothes and the dragons dressed in jeans and a t-shirt.
Image: Raphael, Saint George Slaying The Dragon, 1506, image taken from http://www.nga.gov/fcgi-bin/timage_f?object=28&image=197&c=