It's ok for people with disabilities to want attention

A lot of things that people with disabilities do get pathologized as “attention seeking behaviors”, whether or not they have anything to do with wanting attention.

That’s not the only problem with the whole concept of “attention seeking behaviors”.

Another problem is that there’s actually absolutely nothing wrong with wanting attention. In fact, all communication involves seeking attention in some way.

Taken literally, here are behaviors that involve seeking attention:

  • Saying hello
  • Asking if someone is ok
  • Writing a blog post
  • Performing on stage
  • Teaching a class
  • Waving to someone
  • Asking a question
  • Reporting a problem
  • Commenting on something
  • Posting on Twitter

“Attention seeking” isn’t a neutral technical term. It’s professional jargon for saying “this person becomes unworthy of attention when they do this, and so we’re going to aggressively ignore them.”

That’s a value judgement, generally a very harsh value judgement. There’s nothing scientific, technical, or medical about that kind of judgement. And it’s a very cruel thing to do to people who don’t deserve it.

tl;dr Calling something an “attention seeking behavior” isn’t a technical term; it’s a (generally unwarranted) insult.