The paper “ The Short Bus - A Journey Beyond Normal by Jonathan Mooney" is a thrilling example of a book review on psychology. Mooney’ s book is a description of his four-month-long journey throughout the US in a school bus which he uses as a recreational vehicle. The author was diagnosed as dyslexic and learning disabled in school but was still able to successfully complete a college degree. Yet, despite his accomplishments, he finds that rather than experiencing happiness and satisfaction, he still feels out of place and there is still an inner yearning for a sense of self-fulfillment.
By undertaking a journey throughout the United States in a bus similar to the one set aside to take him to school and identifying his status as a disabled child, Mooney sets out to rediscover himself and redefine the meaning of what constitutes a “ normal” person. Through this book, the author has been able to question our traditional perception of the “ normal” person as being in some way superior to a disabled person. By providing snippets of information about disability, Mooney demonstrates again and again, how perception can make all the difference in the extent to which a disabled person can be accepted into the “ normal” human spectrum.
For example, in explaining the distinction between autism and Asperger’ s syndrome, Mooney distinguishes between the views expressed by Dr. Kanner, a Viennese child psychiatrist, and Dr. Asperberger. While Dr. Kanner views the autistic non verbal child with involuntary physical and verbal tics as a child “ painfully disconnected from the human experience” (Mooney, 240), Dr. Asperberger sees such as child as contributing to human experience in a different way, i.e, through “ an originality of thought and experience which may well lead to exceptional achievements in later life. ” (Mooney 240).
The fact that these children are different from others and require care is undisputed, but the differing perspectives of the two doctors are significant in terms of the potential existing for the disabled child to be accepted as a part of the human experience. While the former perception will ensure that the disabled child is always pushed outside the normal human spectrum, the latter ensures that the disabled child will be accepted into the higher range of the normal spectrum.
All the people Mooney meets throughout the book are skewed in terms of their “ normalcy” when normal is defined according to the mold that most human beings belong to. Yet, it is these so-called abnormal people who in their own way, offer a fresh new perspective of life itself and who have been able to find meaning in their lives and have something valuable to share. For example, the character Jeff whom Mooney meets in Davis, California has an odd, quirky habit of timing everything he does, and when questioned about why he did it, he explains that “ it’ s a sort of a comforting habit. ” (Mooney 237).
On the one hand is the perception that Jeff isn’ t normal because he’ s not quite on par with other people and does not do things in normally acceptable ways, yet he is exceptional in his own way – he shines in Math and presents Mooney with a notebook of jottings, which the author describes as “ one of the most beautiful things anyone has ever given me. ” (Mooney 250).
Jeff also has his own contribution to make to others, “ everyone I spoke with said that Jeff lived in the present and taught others to do the same. ” (Mooney 248). This is just one example of the many people the author has met in the book, all of whom are odd in some way and are not considered normal, who as children have traveled to school on the short bus, “ a public symbol of disability and special education” (Mooney 16).
The author demonstrates this negative association throughout the book, which appears to reinforce the arguments that the inclusion movement for disabled students may indeed be beneficial, by providing a learning experience with normal children as much as possible, to provide innovative learning experiences at school, so that all children can be successful. (Freagon, 1993) The underlying message of Mooney’ s book is the strong need that exists for us to alter our perception about disabled people so that their contributions can be recognized and they can also feel they belong.
The author often conveys his message of tolerance in simple, yet subtle ways, for instance, his young, four-year-old nephew Connor says, “ It doesn’ t matter I you’ re black Margo because I’ m green” (Mooney 17). The child is young and has been relatively conditioned only to a limited degree by society, thus he is able to demonstrate tolerance. This suggests that there may be a need to alter the existing social conditioning about the distinction between “ normal” and “ abnormal” . A redefinition of the parameters of “ normal” may be necessary if disabled people are not to feel marginalized but accepted in society, to feel that they also belong. This book altered my own perception of disability.
It taught me that in much the same way as the bus was a symbol differentiating the disabled child from others, our perceptions conditioned by society may be regressive symbols that hold us back from a richer, more meaningful interaction with our disabled brothers and sisters. The author open-minded attitude in undertaking his journey helped him to develop and grow in his own awareness; in a similar way, I felt that a prevailing open-minded attitude towards disabled people may only enrich our own lives.