Sunday, October 23, 2016

Disabled Self Worth

I have been thinking about how afraid I am to talk to people. I assume people don't like me, don't want to spend time with me, and unfortunately, this is not uncommon among Autistic people. 
It began because I read the words of another Autistic, describing those dreadful calls for pity of an Autistic person, inevitably arranged by an abled loved one, to send birthday cards. You can read that post here. Other times it asks that we simply "like" the photo to tell the disabled person they are beautiful. It may feel like abled people are helping, telling us we are beautiful, but the message is clear. You are not enough on your own. Abled people can take time to give you a thrill now and then though. 

We are so much more than this. I'm a teacher and a parent of Autistic kids. They interact with abled kids and abled teachers and therapists. They are amazing and I fall in love with them each individually, not in spite of their autism, because of their autism! When they can't stop talking about languages because they love languages that much, or they use a script that so accurately tells me just how they are and what they need at that moment, more than trying to describe it ever could, when they marvel at the beauty in a drop of water as it hits the light. How could you not love that? 

But we are taught that we are less than. People say we can not care for other humans. That we are heartless. Nevermind that Autistic people have made me feel far more like they see me and care for my emotional needs than any abled person has. We hear that a man so deplorable it sends shivers down my spine to think he may become our next president, must be mentally ill, because of course a neurotypical person could not be that deplorable. We see depictions in haunted houses and Halloween decor of the scary mental patient. Nevermind that most violent crimes are committed by people without a mental illness. 

So I hide. I avoid people. I assume people hate me. Because let's be honest, they probably do. I act strangely, go out of my way to be weird. I don't make eye contact. I can't do small talk. And all you've ever been taught is to feel sorry for me. Send me a card on my birthday. Take me as your pity date to the prom. Do a Best Buddies project with me. 

It's no wonder so many of us struggle to feel like real people. Wanted people. Loved people. If you are a parent, therapist, teacher, etc., do better. Show us that you see us for real.