What is normal? (and other such questions)

How many of you reading this blog have cringed at some point when someone has referenced the word normal during a discussion about your child?

Those glasses make him look more normal.

In a normal child, I would do xyz, but that isn't the case here.

If he was, you know, normal, then it wouldn't be a problem.

Etcetera, ad.nauseum.

I have always baulked at the notion of normality, and never been one to follow the crowd.
Sure, I used to try and fit in as I was growing up, but I never really did.

What is normal? Or more to the point, who is normal?
When I try and picture in my head the ultimate 'normal' person, all I keep getting is...well...nothing.
You try.
Go on, pause for a minute and try and define in your own mind what normal might actually look like.
I'll wait.

***********insert appropriate waiting time**********************

How did you go?

I am assuming (and correct me if I am wrong), that you couldn't come up with one image, or one definition of normal.
And that is my point.
Normal doesn't really exist.

So, why does abnormal appear so often in the world of disability?
I get that our kids aren't typical.
They don't fit the parameters of typical developmental milestones.
But surely this just makes them different?

I think this quote pretty much sums up what I think:

Source: via Elienny on Pinterest


  1. Interesting question... I defined normal several months ago but it only applied to me and was only in hindsight that I was able to do it.

    For many years I have experienced mental health problems along with a label. I always said/thought 'if only I could be normal'. When asked what that meant I could not define it at the time but then after intensive treatment I improved significnatly and in hindsight I could define what I meant by normal. I guess in fact it wasn't a definition of normal but of what was ok or acceptable to me. To me being normal was to be out of the chaos, that's what I had meant all along but I had to get there to know it. It wasnt to get rid of a condition or diagnosis - that didnt matter in the end.

    Perhaps normal is just the wrong word - what people really want to say is what is OK, what is important and it will be different for everyone.

    Anna I know this is not exactly where you were heading with this post but I think it's an interesting thought that sometimes when we say normal it's not really what we mean.

    If people think they are not normal or someone is not normal perhaps that is because there is a gap between what they currently are and what they want/expect of themselves and someone else.

    Sorry if this isn't at all relevant but I think my point is that normal is whatever you make of it, it's different for everyone. There is no one normal and someone with any sort of condition physical, mental or genetic can be normal, it doesnt really matter. I guess the irony of my situation was everyone else probably considered me normal and it was me who didn't - perhaps the opposite for families and children with physical disability where others may judge normality.

    J (sorry to post as anonymous - I admire you Anna for sharing your blogs and thoughts and feelings publicly. Sometimes I wish I could do that too but am not there yet!)

    1. Hi J,
      What an insightful response to my post. Thankyou so much for taking the time to respond and share your thoughts and story. I think what you have written is spot on. The idea of 'normal' means different things for different people.

      I think that is why I liked the Morticia Adams quote so much. What is normal for one person, isn't for another, so really, we should just define normality in the way that it fits into our own ideals and our own world.

      I think in my experience, the focus on normal vs abnormal seems to be always in my face. I find I am constantly having to challenge people on what the true meaning of normal is.

      Thanks again for your response, I absolutely love hearing other people's perspectives!

  2. Normal

    Emotionally speaking, these are words that don't describe anything. Just like the word 'nice'. Calling something 'nice' means you want to say something good, but there's nothing particularly good or interesting enough to say about it.

    The same about the word 'normal'. There's nothing interesting to say.

    It's almost an insult to call someone 'normal'.

    Do you want to be normal? Do you want to be called normal? What a revolting thought. If I'm normal, I don't stand out. If I don't stand out, I'm not unique - if I'm not unique, I'm not ME.

    1. Interesting response Jacob.
      I agree that when the word 'normal' is used it is often not really describing anything specific. It is non-specific, which is perhaps wherein lies the problem in terms of definition. As I have replied above, people will define normal in a way that is relevant to them. This is ok!
      The problem I find, is that people overuse the idea of 'normal' and therefore it becomes a generic term that can often become more of an insult.

      I tend to 'normalise' things all the time in the job that I do. But I Have to be careful that I don't normalise things using my definition of normal, because then I am in danger of becoming patronising.

      There will always have to be a socially acceptable 'norm' in which we measure things. I don't have a problem with this.

      My irk is that I hate when people overuse the word normal, and use it in a way that isn't respectful of the differences in meaning.

      Great response! Thanks!

  3. Normal is only a word. I use it often when referring to things my child does and doesn't do. We all have a different perception of what the word means, based on our upbringing and life experience.

    1. Normal IS only a word, I agree, and you are right when you say we all have a different perception of the word. Nothing wrong with that.

      As I have said before, like all words, it can be misused, or, it becomes a word that has no real meaning.

      So do I think I am normal? By my definitions, I am as normal as anything. But by yours...perhaps not!

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  4. Well, Anna....my son, Adam, is certainly not "normal"; without a doubt, I am not normal; and without a question, my wife is not normal. My daughter thinks that she is normal. I would guess that we are just who we are and try our best to plod through the day. I would guess that normal is an illusion and for all of us the concept dissolves in time and is irrelevant. Normal is only for those who have not a worry in the world...that 1%.

  5. Well said! Oh and I love that quote! I am stealing it for my classroom.


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