**originally posted in 2009**
I guess I never paid attention to this before.
Back in 2006, I wrote about some adult group home residents that I saw at one of our local malls. I wrote about their walk through the mall – “I saw the two women in charge leading the slow-moving group, and the four clients trudging slowly behind, not seeming the least bit interested in their surroundings. They were in almost a single file line, and at the end of the line was Jack, working desperately to pull his underwear from his behind where it had apparently gotten ‘stuck’.”
Then yesterday, while shopping at Walmart, I saw an older gentleman with Down Syndrome, probably in his 40’s, shopping with someone who appeared to be his mother. I’ve seen the two of them before out and about in some of the same neighborhood places I frequent. This gentleman followed his mother in single file through the store, and has done the same thing every time I see him.
Also yesterday, I drove past an apartment complex near my home, apartments where our local community service board assists adults with intellectual disabilities live as independently as possible. I often see some of the residents making their way to the Walgreens or the McDonalds on the corner. Every time I see them, no matter how large their group, they are walking in single file.
Why single file? Why not walking side by side, chatting, laughing or even arguing? Instead, their faces are frozen with no expressions – they never talk to each other – they just walk, one behind the other, to their destination and then back home again.
How did they learn this behavior? Is this what we have taught them is the only acceptable way to be a part of their community?
All this saddened me, and I plan to make sure my children know they don’t have to walk in single file. They can run and skip, they can link arms or hold hands, they can talk and laugh and yell sometimes. I don’t want my children, or for that matter, any other person with a disability, to have a single file life.