We can’t have it both ways ~ seize the ‘superpower’ part, too :)

I’m going to go out on a limb here.

Come to think of it, I’ve been doing that a lot lately.

But apparently I feel a need to, so please bear with me. 😉


On the one hand, we almost overwhelmingly embrace the establishment of neurodiversity as fact.  Which it is.

But on the other hand, there’s a significant theme of disability and a common tendency to label ourselves as disabled.

Which is it? Is the Asperger’s/autism spectrum truly a non pathological variant, or is there somehow something wrong with us? (Please know that I don’t mean that in any kind of hostile or antagonizing way.)

Is it somehow a BAD thing to be Aspie/autistic? Are our characteristics always negative aspects?

My personal take on the subject is that Asperger’s/autism itself is not–in itself–a disability, any more than an Italian is disabled when entering a meeting in which everyone else in the room is Egyptian. (I do very much realize that many Aspie/autistic people ARE disabled, living with other health conditions; but I’m talking about Asperger’s/autism itself, in situations in which there are no other health concerns present.)

That’s not to say, however, that we don’t face challenges.  The perceived disability becomes (sometimes painfully) apparent when we attempt to interact with people (and/or environments) that are not wired the same way we are.  Saying that being on the spectrum is being disabled, is actually (the way I see it–just my opinion alone), in a way, a form of internalized ableism.  It’s to say that we’re somehow inferior; it’s to say that we’re lesser.  It degrades our neurotype, in comparison to neurotypicality/allism.

I don’t agree with that (what I see is a) negative mindset.  I don’t think any of us on the spectrum is inferior.  I don’t think our neurotype is lesser.  I don’t think that when we hit the “total button” of our net worth, that we come out deficient or impaired.

I simply think that we have, love or hate the term, a “different ability” (or a different set of abilities) from the rest of the world.

The diagnostic criteria for Asperger’s/autism are incredibly ableist.  They focus exclusively on our impairments, our shortcomings, or limitations…what we can’t do, or what we have trouble doing.

In meeting these criteria, we do accept that.  I’m not going to blame myself or anyone else for doing so.  It’s part of the reality, after all.

But what the criteria (and the experts and the research authors) don’t mention are the superpowers.  The ability to focus on detail.  The tendency to be a great friend who will be sincere, avoid playing mind games, and be REAL with you.  The ability to think and see the world in a different way.  (Temple Grandin is right; the world needs that, you know.) 🙂

I’m not alone in this mindset, not by a long shot.  The most popular blog posts I’ve seen, both on my blog and on those of others, carry positive messages:


Why, then, do we cling to the idea that we’re disabled, that we’re broken, or somehow defective or that something is wrong with us?

Like I said–in a way, that could be considered internalized ableism.  I agree wholeheartedly that life is tough for us; after all, we’re “Mac” systems running in a “Windows”-based world!  No, that’s not easy–at all.  Yes, that sucks sometimes.  OK, it sucks a lot of the time.  But that doesn’t mean that we don’t measure up.  It doesn’t mean that we should put ourselves down.  It doesn’t mean that we’re lacking.  (Sure, we lack, but we have other skills that allistic people lack, too.)  It doesn’t mean that our neurotype is wrong.

I gently-but-strongly encourage us, the members of the spectrum community, to claim our skills and talents as much as we own our deficits.  We need to admire ourselves and each other by recognizing the different abilities.  We need to give credit where credit is due.  (I think) we need to claim the term “different ability” for ourselves before it gets co-opted by the neurotypical/allistic world and used as yet one more patronizing or condescending way (no matter how well-intentioned) to talk about us (without us).

We all know that the allistic world has problems of its own; drama, pettiness, and manipulative head games, just to name a few.  The difference is, they don’t own their own shortcomings because those flaws are so rampant throughout the rest of the world that the people writing the diagnostic manuals and issuing labels don’t think twice.

I’ve got news (or not) for all of them: they’re not so perfect, either.  Their backyards have poop in them, too.  It’s just different poop.

I’m not denying that we face hardships and impairments; I’m just encouraging us not to sell ourselves short by forgetting, ignoring, or overlooking our positive aspects 🙂

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13 Comments

    1. Thank you! ❤️ I have a lot of fun browsing. Sort of a special interest 😉. Sometimes it takes me longer to find the “perfect” image than it does to write the post itself lol 😊

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I wasn’t content with the image used on my recent post but didn’t want to leave it blank either. Must get out and take some pics of the Autumn before it passes by! I’m never sure about copyright on images so have tended to use my own. Although, someone mentioned to me the other day that Pixabay is quite good. Happy image hunting:)

        Liked by 1 person

  1. In both my son and me I see a mix of strengths and struggles. I simultaneously celebrate our uniqueness while acknowledging the very real ways that we have felt disabled at times (and of course our functioning levels fluctuate). It has been a tricky balance to do both, and not lean too far one way or the other. I wish society did a better job of accomodation and acceptance, because that would go a long way in helping people cope with disability.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I wholeheartedly agree with most of this post… expecting myself to agree with *every* aspect of anything would be a stretch 😉 I’m personally uncomfortable with the idea of adopting a “disabled” identity, because, well, I’m just not. I don’t consider my difficulties, spikey and extreme as they may be, to be permanent disabilities.

    Life can be disabling for me — it can be disabling for everyone. But it wouldn’t be honest to call myself disabled, and it wouldn’t be true.

    The disabled/non-disabled – difference/disorder/disability argument seems to parallel the self-DX/official DX arguments. I think this is very much a matter of degrees – the spectrum strikes again. So, we can find ourselves just about anywhere on the spectrum, at any given time.

    For me, I tend to “flit around” the whole expanse.. peaking and bottoming out in a wide variety of ways. And some days, it’s a challenge to find the peaks, for all the valleys. But yeah, the upsides are definitely important to highlight and call out.

    Indeed, they are.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Totally agreed! I love your voice of logic and reason 😊 Although it’s also very rare for me to agree with everything 100%, I agree with everything you’ve said 😉❤️

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Exactly!! (Applauding). They don’t seem excited to call themselves out on their own behavior but are really quick to point out any little difference they see in us 😡💜

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ll note that my diagnostician commented that I was the most “purely” autistic person she had ever assessed. I don’t appear to have any of the conditions that seem to frequently “tag along” with autism. So I write from that perspective. I think part of the communication problem may be that people have different connotations for words like ‘disability.’

    When I see that word, it doesn’t carry any negative overtones for me. It’s defined in English in a variety of ways, but the most basic one is what it means to me. “A physical or mental condition that limits a person’s movements, senses, or activities.” In order to at least try to speak clearly, I’ll switch context away from autism to my other “invisible disability.”

    Celiac disease is a physical condition that limits my activities. The things I can eat or drink are limited, I have to make my needs known, and there are things I can’t do, or can’t do without making myself sick, and being sick is certainly limiting. And those impacts spill over into all sorts of business and social functions. I have to have my limitation constantly in mind so I can monitor and be very careful about my environment. It spills over into pretty much all areas of my life. Does it prevent me from doing the things I want to do? Or restrict my ability to function? No. I can work around the limitations and manage them. And I do so now, after seven years, almost automatically. But it is still definitely a disability, even if it is one that’s not too difficult to manage with practice. (Now, how the things you have to do to manage celiac disease intersect and are made more challenging when you’re also autistic is a discussion for another day.)

    I guess celiac disease could be viewed as something “wrong” with me, but if I lived in a world without gluten, you would never know. Unfortunately, I live in a world filled with a substance that’s incompatible with the way my body works.

    In that context, I have to acknowledge that being autistic in a world that is not has placed limits on me. There are situations in which I have struggled and not infrequently failed to function as I wished. Sensory input can overwhelm me and make things worse. I have needed and continue to need support for things to go smoothly. I recognized in my post on the topic that I’ve never really lived alone for any significant period of time and I’m not sure I would manage particularly well if I did. Oh, I’m reasonably certain I would get by. I seem to be pretty good at that. But life would be a lot harder and likely a lot messier. I do some things really, really well. Saying that I struggle at others would be … generous.

    Managing and working around the things that limit you can actually be easier when you know what they are. Before I was diagnosed with celiac disease, I was basically killing myself because I didn’t know how I needed to manage my environment. I think there’s a similar element in autism. Being aware helps me recognize when I need to stop pushing. I have a relentless will and I have pushed myself effectively into collapse at times because I didn’t know even where to make my own accommodations. I’m trying to learn how to do better.

    That doesn’t mean there’s anything ‘wrong’ with being autistic. It’s difficult to separate strengths that flow from being autistic versus strengths some theoretical allistic Scott might share, but I do know I wouldn’t want to sacrifice any of them to find out. Would my mind work they way it does without the so-called ‘autistic split’ in core ‘intelligence’ funneling so much more into one aspect? Would I lose my ability to hyperfocus at need? Is my intuitive, gestalt understanding of things a function of my different perception of the world? Do I want to give up a lifetime being hyperlexic?

    But, given that I live and need to function in an allistic world, being autistic does come with real limitations. By understanding them, I can manage and work around them. I also recognize that some autistic people need more support than I do. I imagine some also need less. I would be fine with changing the name to autism spectrum condition rather than disorder, since that’s more accurately what it actually is. And the diagnostic criteria certainly could use a lot of work. But I’m not sure I have a problem with criteria that focus on areas where my differences create struggle or yes, even some degree of ‘disability’ functioning within the world we actually inhabit. Those are the things I need to know and understand and they are also the things that stand out as markers.

    I don’t have any useful suggestions on ways to improve the way the larger world perceives and interacts with us, which seems to be one of the main points of your post. But I don’t see simply recognizing that we do face challenges living and interacting in the world as it exists as a problem. In fact, I think it can be helpful to understand those better.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you so much for your eloquent viewpoint – wow! I REALLY think you’re onto something about the definition/impression of the word “disability”; I love how you’ve defined it! I’m a fellow Celiac, so I can completely relate; I’ve never even thought of that as a disability before, but you’re completely right in that it is, in that we have to change what we eat and there are certain places we simply just can’t go.

      I also completely agree with changing the name to include the word “condition” as opposed to “disorder”; I think a lot of people (both on and off the spectrum) tend to get (even subconsciously) hung up/focused on the “disorder” part, and participate in what I’m coming to learn is internalized ableism (a completely new research topic for me lol). 🙂 I think that potential pitfall is easy for most of us to fall into from time to time, even if temporarily. I do agree that we have our limitations, for sure. I know we feel them when we go out and about, hang out with other people, or run errands. I know that a lot of us feel them in school, be it K-12 or college/university. I know that for those of us who are employed, we often feel them in our workplaces, when we try to interact with coworkers, superiors, or even simply when doing our jobs. It can get downright challenging.

      Not only do we live in a world in which we are a tiny minority, but we also live in a world with varying degrees of stigma, misconceptions, urban legends, rumors, and apprehension. The healthcare profession (conventional or integrative/holistic) certainly isn’t helping matters any.

      Like you, I’m also hyperlexic and, also like you, *hell no*, I wouldn’t want to give that up 🙂 In fact, I don’t want to give up any of the traits; my next goal is to try to acquire some additional tools that might help me perform better in an allistic-dominated world and increase quality of life. 🙂

      Thank you again for this. I really look forward to your comments; they make for excellent discussion, and they really open my eyes as I progress through this journey! ❤

      Liked by 1 person

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