It’s a pain in the neck to live with an intellectual disability

My bro-in-law Vincent was in a bad mood the other day. He was irritated, and I wasn’t as sympathetic as I might have been. He was frustrated because he was defeated by one of life’s unimportant but aggravating logic puzzles that plague him like a stumbling-block before the blind.

It’s difficult to grasp–let alone convey–the human experience of living with an intellectual disability. In any event, there’s no single common experience to convey. People living with intellectual disabilities have such varied challenges, personalities, and life circumstances.

There is one common thread. Intellectual disability is a pain in the neck.├é┬áImagine, if you will, that you are visiting Starbucks. Your barista has just prepared your favorite skinny mocha latte. She has it right there. She’ll be happy to hand it to you–right after you solve this Rubik’s cube and then reset your iCloud password and settings.

Yeah, it would be pretty annoying, constantly having to solve lots of hard and annoying little logic puzzles just to make it through the day.

Author: Harold Pollack

Harold Pollack is Helen Ross Professor of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago. He has served on three expert committees of the National Academies of Science. His recent research appears in such journals as Addiction, Journal of the American Medical Association, and American Journal of Public Health. He writes regularly on HIV prevention, crime and drug policy, health reform, and disability policy for American Prospect,, and other news outlets. His essay, "Lessons from an Emergency Room Nightmare" was selected for the collection The Best American Medical Writing, 2009. He recently participated, with zero critical acclaim, in the University of Chicago's annual Latke-Hamentaschen debate.