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article imageOp-Ed: Susan Boyle Should be Given Accommodation for Her Disabilities

By Carol Forsloff     May 30, 2009 in Entertainment
Susan Boyle, who has captivated the world with her beautiful voice, is now ridiculed by some. That's because folks may not have knowledge of her handicapping conditions, which deserve accommodation so that she can share her singing talents fairly.
This woman, an unemployed church worker who cared for her mother until her mother's death two years ago, has suffered all her life with learning disabilities. These resulted, according to Boyle's account, as a result of oxygen deprivation when she was born. She was the butt of jokes in school because she was slow and not very attractive. Now she is being talked about in blogs, articles, article comments and in tabloids both in print and online as perhaps too emotionally deficient to win Britain's Got Talent.
For most types of contests these days, there are opportunities for individuals with disabilities to excel. For workplace accommodations people with disabilities receive special help. We are told to understand that people with disabilities have special needs. Susan Boyle has talent; she can sing in ways that inspire many, but at the same time she has behaviors that correspond with brain injured adults and those with learning disabilities or neurological deficits. Her accomplishment on Britain’s Got Talent could be compared with a blind person finishing Harvard University summa cum laude.
The characteristics exhibited in adulthood for brain injury include attention deficit, impaired planning and problem solving, inflexibility, impulsiveness, irritability, opposition and socially inappropriate behavior. Experts further say, “A person suffering from TBI disinhibition is likely to "speak his mind" and say socially inappropriate things where a normal person might think them but have the sense not to say them. This causes increased difficulty in socialization and advancement as an adult.”
During the course of time since Susan Boyle rose to fame on Britain's Got Talent, the world has had an opportunity to view Boyle in a number of contexts. Recently she was reported swearing, acting inappropriately and arguing. She also threw what people called a temper tantrum when Piers Morgan applauded the skills of a rival contestant on Britain's Got Talent. These behaviors are characteristic of someone with Boyle's syndrome of what is called neurological dysfunction, mild brain injury or learning disabilities.
Understanding that, and recognizing that it is not only the law but of moral consequence in many countries to provide special resources for those with disabling conditions, why would it not be reasonable to allow for these conditions for someone seeking a musical career? It is reasonable, given Susan Boyle's extraordinary talent, that the media understand the nature of brain injury and learning disabilities and view Susan Boyle and her achievements, as well as potential achievements, through that prism of understanding. It is the business of the press to educate and inform. In this case the press with respect to Susan Boyle has fallen short of its responsibilities. Perhaps the public will be more empathetic and understanding than those who have written about Boyle since she achieved the finals for Britain's Got Talent and displayed inappropriate behavior. That will allow a fair and reasonable opportunity for this unique woman to realize her dreams while showing the compassion that we are to give those with disabilities.
As a retired rehabilitation and mental health counselor, educator and life-care planner who has worked with adults like Susan Boyle, I hope that compassion overrides cynicism for the sake of fairness for this talented woman.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
More about Britain got talent, Learning disabilities, Susan boyle
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