Disability and Limitations
You wouldn’t believe how many times I’ve gone back-and-forth about whether or not to write this blog. My main reservation comes from the fact that this is something very relevant to my life at the moment, and although there’s a certain element of beauty in this, there’s also the risk of rambling on way more than needed. However, as this is an important issue within the autistic community and something people in general often misjudge, I thought it was important that I included it in a blog post before this month was over.
Let me just state this first: I don’t have a problem with limitations in themselves. As an autistic person I understand that, living in a society geared towards neurotypical people, there are things I struggle with or flat-out can’t do that neurotypical people of the same age wouldn’t have a second thought about. I get that distinguishing limitations is useful for people in my life and the life of other autistics in determining the best way to accommodate them and their needs.
I’ve become quite good over the years at holding my hands up to admit when something is difficult for me. I don’t always find communicating with people easy, but I’ve become better at making people aware in one way or another, whether that be by emailing them directly or talking to my mum and having her relay the message.
However, I do have a problem when people find out that I’m autistic and automatically undermine me, pinning limitation after limitation onto my name based on a stereotype of what my condition entails. You go from someone who was previously viewed as an independent, capable person to someone treated as though you’re not worth anywhere near as much as others of the same age. I’ve had moments where I’ve felt my intelligence has been brought into question and I’ve been treated like a two year old, despite the fact that I’m almost legally an adult.
I don’t know whether this is a biased view, but it’s happened to me a lot, especially since my diagnosis. Even before, when all I had to show for myself were a few mental health diagnoses, people were quick to say what I could and couldn’t cope with, often without consulting me beforehand, although it wasn’t anywhere to the degree I’m currently experiencing.
Having limitations that I may not necessarily agree with stuck to my name like super glue makes me feel like I’m easily disposable, like I don’t really matter to anyone. It also makes me feel like a burden because with limitations come financial costs and other things which people guilt me for, like if I just tried a little harder my autism would disappear. Or limitations, even made up ones, would cease to exist off my record, like that’s how things work, right?
I think a lot of the assumptions made in regards to autistic people comes with a phrase often used by neurotypical people, which is “suffering from autism”. For me and many others, this simply isn’t the case. I don’t suffer from my autism in the slightest; I do, however, suffer from living in a society which was made and shaped around people whose brains are wired differently to mine. It’s important to keep in mind that not everything we autistic people do is a limitation. In fact, if I wasn’t autistic, there would be many parts to my personality that simply wouldn’t exist. That’s scary, even just to think about it.
Overall, I think it’s best never to assume someone’s limitations before communicating with them beforehand where possible, even if you feel you have an extensive understanding of who they are, and to remember that someone is so much more than their limitations and should be treated as such. We’re all individuals with things we thrive at and, alternatively, things we struggle with, regardless of any disability we may or may not have.
Until next time,