Lisa D. (chaoticidealism) wrote,
Lisa D.

Disability & Difference

Considering that Aspies are indistinguishable from many independent autistic adults... considering that many of us also fit the criteria for Kanner's... I'd say it's yet another variation on the autism theme.

It's different from autism in that we tend to think more verbally and develop language on time or early. But the social, communication, cognitive, and behavioral differences from the norm are identical to autism, especially when you take language, self-help, and intelligence differences into account. And, of course, consider the fact that people on the spectrum are so very diverse... even at the same level of independence.

What's this with "Asperger's isn't the same as autism"? Why insist "Aspies aren't disabled"? Why distance ourselves from the idea of disability? Why is it so horrible to be considered disabled?

Definition of disability: Having one or more abilities significantly below the norm, in such a way as to cause a mismatch between your skills and what is expected of you in society.

Saying something is a disability doesn't mean you're also saying it's bad or should be cured. I think even if we were all disabled--let's say Asperger's meant that we were forever unable to understand facial expressions and body language--it wouldn't be right to cure it, because it's part of our personalities. That's true of Kanner's and CDD autistics, too; it's part of their personalities to be autistic, and we've no right to deny them what we want for ourselves by saying, "They're disabled; we're not; so it's OK if a cure turns them all into Aspies". Isn't. Any more than it is to turn us into NTs.

Just because you're not disabled yourself doesn't mean that you can deny that others might be, or insist that it's OK to be Aspie but not OK to be low-functioning autistic. Trying to shake the "disability" label won't do you a bit of good, anyway; all it says is, "I don't want to be seen as disabled" and in turn "I think disability is bad". It's neutral; all it means is unusually low abilities in some area or other, which says nothing about happiness or usefulness or all the other areas without a low skill level. I know that an Aspie who's never been held back by Asperger's (does that even exist?) might not know what it's like; but face it: If you fight to be seen as not disabled, rather than fighting for acceptance of every autistic person, you're leaving a lot of people--including a lot of Aspies, and most Aspie children--behind.

You're different. Face it. Convincing people you're not disabled, even if it's true, won't change that. Disabled is a really vague term, anyway, and my definition on the basis of "ability significantly below the norm" is arbitrary and probably different from everybody else's definitions. Better to convince people that being different--whether disabled or not--isn't bad, but something to celebrate. Not only does it solve your problem of being different-but-not-disabled, but it solves the same problem for people who are disabled, not to mention people who are above the norm and thus different.

You can fight all you like not to be considered disabled, but that won't change the fact that if you're an Aspie, you're still off the norm. You'll always be different, and if you can convince them you're not disabled, they'll still know you're different. You could always play NT; and if you're good at it, they mightn't be able to tell; but do you really want to do that--act like somebody you're not--just so you're not considered to be different?

Prejudice comes from having a bad opinion--often an unthinking opinion--of someone who's different. Most targets of prejudice aren't disabled. But all prejudice, against all sorts of people, could be defeated if people accepted difference as neutral rather than negative.

I'll admit that you're in a bit of an awkward spot if you're autistic but not disabled. You don't fall into the stereotype; you don't need accommodations; but you're annoyed by people who call you "recovered" because you sure aren't NT, either. But what autistic person really falls into the stereotype, anyway?

The term "disabled" is vague to begin with. Many of us fall on either side of the line depending on how you define it.

But if you as a high-functioning Aspie try to divorce yourself from "disabled", it won't do any good: Unless you fake NT, you'll still be perceived as different. And it sure won't do any good for the rest of us.

Let's say Asperger's gets redefined as a personality trait, not as a kind of autism. What happens to the Aspie kids who need to be taught how not to melt down in the middle of phys ed? What happens to the Aspie adult whose boss won't give him a quiet, fluorescent-free workplace? There'll still be Aspie bully victims; remember that difference, not disability, is the target of prejudice. All those little things that the disabled part of the Aspie population needs won't be available anymore.

Wouldn't it be better to forget whether or not you're defined as "disabled", and work for acceptance of the entire autistic population instead? Why is it so important that you be considered "not disabled"? Prejudice on the basis of skill levels is pretty common in the Aspie community, and I think it's inexcusable. You've been a victim of prejudice; you know what it feels like. And yet, you level prejudice at others because their skill levels are lower than your own.

I would much rather that all autistic people be accepted. Disability should be immaterial to that. "Some autistic people aren't disabled" is an indicator of our diversity, in the same way that "Some autistic people use sign," and "Some autistic people have synesthesia", and "Some autistic people have ADHD".

Stop focusing on "I'm not disabled". Start focusing on, "I'm different, and that's not a bad thing."
Tags: autism spectrum, disability, neurodiversity, prejudice

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