Monday, December 02, 2013

Disability isn't Death, Just Different

From That Crazy Crippled Chick:

Disabled doesn't mean suffering or brokenness. It doesn't mean that you will never love, or be loved in return. If you stumble into big-D Disabled land, it doesn't mean that your life is over - it means a new one is just beginning. Despite what society would have you believe, it doesn't mean inferiority, or a fate worse than death. It shouldn't be a scarlet letter on your chest. It's simply another way of being - a turn of the kaleidoscope in a different direction and suddenly all the colors and patterns line up in a way you've never seen before. Different, even new, but just as beautiful nonetheless.

I would like to preface my comments by saying I disagree that disability is not about brokenness.

There's a reason it's called disability.

Parts of your body don't work.

There is a certain amount of suffering associated with that.

I oppose this post-modern reframing of contradictory things as equivalent. Disability isn't the same thing as health.

That being said, the rest of the quote is correct.

Disability isn't a fate worse than death.

It's just another way to live.

Most Down Syndrome babies are aborted because parents don't want to deal with the disability.

The kids are perfectly willing to deal with it.

But the parents don't want to. They are afraid their kid will suffer.

As if able-bodied children don't suffer.

Yes, people do bully you for disability, and you might be disadvantaged in many ways.

But that doesn't mean your life isn't worth living.

When my daughter was nine years old, I had an epiphany about her autism.

For many years, she'd run aimlessly around the school yard before school, and I'd watch her. Nobody would play with her. It was hard to watch because I thought she was being socially excluded.

She was. It's pretty hard to be friends with an autistic kid who has few social skills.

So finally I probed my daughter (because she could now answer questions)  to see if she was unhappy about running around the yard.

And she would get increasingly annoyed at me for asking because she wasn't upset.

She was very happy to stim by running around.

It was a huge weight off my shoulders.

I wasn't a bad mother because I hadn't found the solution to her social exclusion. She wasn't suffering inside and I had nothing to solve.

So while she still looked weird running the yard, at least I had the peace of mind of knowing that she wasn't unhappy.
But the reality was, I was the one who was unhappy with her social exclusion. I was the one unhappy with her stimming.

And I think that's what happens with parents and disability. They think that if they have a disabled kid it's all that much more suffering that they have to resolve.

It's not like that at all.

It's true that disability carries with it a certain amount of suffering and grief, but it's not the tragedy that people think it is.
 A kid who is developmentally disabled might not achieve material success. But what he is naturally drawn to will make him happy.

It's not tragic, it's not death, it's just different.

I think it's the parents who have trouble with this difference. Not the kids. 

And I think it's even more true with society in general. They imagine that if you can't do certain things, you're probably really down on yourself. And there might be some people who are, but it's certainly not the majority. People with disabilities focus on what they can do, and don't mind what they can't.