Naturally Unaware: One reporter’s experience with mentally challenged adults

On Feb. 13, I went to Kappa Alpha Theta for about an hour for the Natural Ties Valentine’s Day Party. Natural Ties is an organization where fraternity and sorority members pick up a mentally handicapped adult from the Lawrence community and spend an hour or so a week with them. Some of the activities include bowling, going to the movies or doing arts and crafts.

As a member of the Greek community and having experience with the mentally handicapped, I wasn’t sure if this would truly get me out of my comfort zone. However, this was the first time I had ever gone to a Natural Ties event and I didn’t know what to expect. The real kicker was going to be discussing issues they would like to see covered in the news. I had no idea how to even approach this topic.

Eventually I sat down with a woman named Michelle who suffers from bipolar disease and mild retardation. She was one of the higher functioning “ties,” as they’re called, at the Valentine’s Day get-together. She told me all about her basketball league, her jobs at HyVee and Cottonwood, and her favorite television shows. Television was my segue into news. I asked Michelle if she ever watches the news on TV.

“No way,” Michelle said. “The news is so boring!”

A similar response I received when I asked several of the other ties the same question.

This got me thinking about whom the news is tailored to inform. If people like Michelle and the other ties think the news is boring, how are their voices being heard? Under Hispanic Student Issues, I would like to cover Hispanics that are mentally challenged in order to provide a voice for a population that is often overlooked by our society.

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