You ask – am I disabled? Or just differently abled?
We all have abilities and disabilities. It’s just that some of our disabilities are more obvious. If someone is in a wheelchair, it’s obvious. Or if they walk with a cane.
Other disabilities are less obvious – but they’re still disabilities. According to the ADA, a disability is an impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.
For me, that life activity has been work – employment. I have had huge struggles trying to hold a real job in today’s work environment. I’m not fast enough, or socially adept enough, to maintain employment. They tell me that I don’t fit in, or they just let me go for no reason.
When I was younger I avoided the label disabled. I tried hard to be normal – just like everyone else. I thought being disabled meant being totally unable to function or be of value. But that is not true. We may have disabilities – but we also have talents and abilities.
Now I have come to accept that I’ll never be like everyone else – if there even is such a thing. I’m simply wired differently. There’s no point trying to fit into a world that doesn’t accept me. It’s better just to be me, quirks and all.
There are many things that are difficult for me. My executive skills are poor. This causes problems with organization and other things. And my social skills are poor too, so I may have problems communicating – especially those parts of communication that don’t rely on words.
But I also have some great abilities. I write pretty well, use English pretty well. I can edit, write, speak in front of groups.
I need for people to understand my quirks and problems with sensory issues, executive skills, or connecting with others. We on the spectrum have entirely different sensory processing and communication styles than neuro-typicals. It’s like we’re speaking different languages, or at least, different dialects.
In our society, in order to get help for these issues you have to call yourself disabled. But even then, when the disability is not well understood, it can be hard to obtain the help and assistance we need.
The first part is recognizing the problems we do have. But before we can get help, we need acceptance and understanding. Then we need help to find ways to work around our issues.
We don’t need pity. We don’t need lectures. We do need understanding and acceptance of our differences, our different ways of doing things.