Monday, May 11, 2015

Stop Telling My Autistic Kid He is Not Disabled

Many times, well meaning people have told my son he is not really Disabled.  They will tell him he is just “differently abled” or “special”.   They think they are helping him, but they are really hurting him.

Yes, it is true that he is special, and that he has many abilities, but he is also very much a Disabled person.  

Telling him that he is just “different” from other kids ignores the  very real difficulties that he faces and the barriers that society places in front of him.  My child does not see his disabilities as anything other than  neutral  and unavoidable facts.  The stigma that others see in labeling him as disabled is the value that they are placing on the lives of Disabled people.  It has absolutely nothing to do with who he is and everything to do with their own ableism.   

When others tell my son that he is “different, not disabled”, they are erasing an important part of his identity.  It is not the only thing about him, but it is a big part of him.   When they deny this part of his identity, they are teaching him to be ashamed of a part of himself.  They are telling him that there is a part of him that he should not be proud of.  While that may not be the intent, that is the message.  

My son is Disabled and Proud.  He is proud of who he is and of the body and mind that are his own.  He is learning how to make his way in this world, a world that is not as welcoming or accepting as it should be to people like him.   He is learning about things like ableism and oppression and how those things are not his fault.  He is discovering the social model of disability and the neurodiversity paradigm.   He is finding community and friendship with others.   He is learning about Disability culture and Autistic Pride.  He is learning that who he is, who he was born to be is not a mistake.   He is learning of the worth in diversity and the value in each of us.   

People: stop trying to take that away from him.

Telling him that he is not Disabled is doing him no favors.  It is actively harming him.  My son is proud and he practices damn hard in spite of the messages that society is giving him about disabled lives.    

Denying his disability will not remove the barriers that make his life difficult.  It will not change the hearts and minds of those who will see him as less than.  What it will do is teach him shame.  That is not something I want for him, or that most people would think is okay to teach a child.  I want him to grow up strong and proud, and honoring of all the things that make him uniquely him.  

Image: Square with four parts consisting of various disability related symbols including, a person using a wheelchair, an outline of a person's head with a brain colored in, two hands using ASL and a figure walking with a cane.  Text over images reads:  Disabled & Proud


  1. Yup--telling us we're not disabled, just different, leaves us with no explanation for why so many things are so damn hard, when they aren't for other people. And that just leaves us feeling defective.

    Being disabled doesn't mean being defective--it just means being disabled, and I don't get why so many adults, parents, and teachers are so into attaching shame to that by telling disabled kids that they shouldn't consider themselves disabled.

    1. Difference becomes disability when others don't like our difference. As I have always said (tongue in cheek), "You people have the disability."

    2. I am Âutistic, yes I have struggles, and have seen others not Âutistic, have plenty of their own struggles, why does it have to be made to sound like it is the end of the world to have Âutism, BUT its different for all Âutistics. In this day an age, it IS hard for everyone except the rich who seemingly get away with anything.

  2. I like how Temple Grandin says it much better "Different Not Less" I am Autistic and don't like the idea of calling myself disabled for Autism alone, everyone, Autistic or not, has difficulties, no one is perfect and no one has a perfect life but by all means, teach your son whatever you want. I will fight for equality, understanding, acceptance and accommodations. I have had the speech delay, learning delays, seizures and the inability to get and keep a job along with chronic pain issues. My mom always told me I could do anything and believed her until recently, with the way the world views autism, a large part due to Autism Speaks, who was started by grandparents and parents, like you, claiming that we couldn't live a normal life. What is normal? What's wrong with a neurological difference? What's wrong with my brain being wired differently than yours, as well as my fellow Autistics? None of us are exactly the same!

    1. I am also Autistic, which is why the title of my blog is "Autistic Times Two".

      There is absolutely nothing wrong with neurological difference, but those differences sometimes cause disability. Disability is not shameful or negative. It just is. I am proud to be Disabled and Autistic just as much as my son is. We know that society is not built to accommodate our needs, but that is not our fault. Or your fault. Or any Autistic or Disabled person's fault.

      I would NEVER tell my child that he can't live a life he wants to live. I encourage him to follow his dreams and find a way to make them happen, whatever that looks like to him.

      My life is not normal, but it is a good life, and the life I want and love. My normal is different from what most people would think is acceptable, but that doesn't make it less valid. My son can have any life he wants to have and I will always support him. Why would anything I have written tell you differently?

  3. So sick of family saying this crap... My two have autism... Why is up for debate??? mind you none of these people have medical degrees, none are pedi neuros... You know, I have the simple belief, my kids have autism, they don't need to be cured, they don't need to be fixed, they are fine who they are... as my daughter says... to take away her autism, is to take away part of her. My kids say they have autism... that is what they say. I follow their lead, they have it, I don't... I don't define them. They do... if you are not autistic, then you shouldn't get to tell them how to feel about themselves or what they should or shouldn't call themselves... I am here to back my kids, to help them in this world. I follow their lead and learn from their cues... afterall they can't tell me how I should or shouldn't feel as a person with OCD, so why would I tell them how to feel or not feel as a person with autism.

  4. I love your perspective on things, and it always causes me to reflect. Thank you.

  5. I am Autistic. I am normal amongst my own people. I am not Neurotypical. I am different. I am not a disabled Neurotypical. I can't be because I am not a Neurotypical. I am a square peg living in a world of round peg people. I am not a broken or disabled round peg. I have challenges living in this round peg world just as round peg people face challenges with me. If together, these two world can accept each others differences we will have a much better world. This is my goal in life.