curebies

Ableist hostility disguised as friendliness

Some people relate to people with disabilities in a dangerous and confusing way. They see themselves as helpers, and at first they seem to really like the person. Then the helper suddenly become aggressively hostile, and angry about the disabled person’s limitations or personality (even though they have not changed in any significant way since they started spending time together). Often, this is because the helper expected their wonderful attention to erase all of the person’s limitations, and they get angry when it doesn’t.

The logic works something like this:

  • The helper thinks that they’re looking past the disability and seeing the “real person” underneath.
  • They expect that their kindness  will allow the “real person” to emerge from the shell of disability.
  • They really like “real person” they think they are seeing, and they’re excited about their future plans for when that person emerges.
  • But the “real person” is actually figment of their imagination.

The disabled person is already real:

  • The helper doesn’t like this already-real disabled person very much
  • The helper ignores most of what the already-real person actually says, does, thinks, and feels.
  • They’re looking past the already-real person, and seeing the ghost of someone they’d like better.

This ends poorly:

  • The already-real person never turns into the ghost the helper is imagining
  • Disability stays important; it doesn’t go away when a helper tries to imagine it out of existence
  • Neither do all of the things the already-real disabled person thinks, feels, believes, and decides
  • They are who they are; the helper’s wishful thinking doesn’t turn them into someone else
  • The helper eventually notices that the already-real person isn’t becoming the ghost that they’ve been imagining
  • When the helper stop imagining the ghost, they notice that the already-real person is constantly doing, saying, feeling, believing, and deciding things that the helper hates
  • Then the helper gets furious and becomes openly hostile

The helper has actually been hostile to the disabled person the whole time

  • They never wanted to spend time around the already-real disabled person; they wanted someone else
  • (They probably didn’t realize this)
  • At first, they tried to make the already-real disabled person go away by imagining that they were someone else
  • (And by being kind to that imaginary person)
  • When they stop believing in the imaginary person, they become openly hostile to the real person

Tl;dr Sometimes ableist hostility doesn’t look like hostility at first. Sometimes people who are unable or unwilling to respect disabled people seem friendly at first. They try to look past disability, and they interact with an imaginary nondisabled person instead of the real disabled person. They’re kind to the person they’re imagining, even though they find the real person completely unacceptable. Eventually they notice the real person and become openly hostile. The disabled person’s behavior has not changed; the ableist’s perception of it has. When someone does this to you, it can be very confusing — you were open about your disability from the beginning, and it seemed like they were ok with that, until they suddenly weren’t. If this has happened to you, you are not alone.

Don't teach kids that their body is wrong

withasmoothroundstone:

realsocialskills:

Something that can happen in therapy for disabled kids is:

People hold out hope that the kid won’t be disabled anymore, when they grow up.

So they push the kid as hard as possible in childhood, and tell them (often without saying this explicitly) that if they just work hard, their body won’t be wrong anymore.

This doesn’t work.

People who are disabled as children are usually still disabled as adults. Even if the therapy helped them. Even if they gained new physical abilities. Even if they learned things from it they wouldn’t have learned without it.

Even if they learn to walk. Even if they learn to talk. No matter what other skills they acquire. Their body is probably going to stay very different from most other people’s bodies, and far from the cultural norm.

And… part of living well as a person with a disability is accepting the body and the brain that you have, and working with it rather than against it. 

Because you can’t live in an imaginary body; you can’t live in an abstraction. You have to live your own life, as you actually are. And sometimes that involves medical treatment, sometimes it involves equipment, sometimes it involved therapy - but always, it involves reality. You can’t willpower yourself into being someone else. 

Disabled kids tend to get taught the opposite message, because childhood therapy is usually cure-oriented even for conditions that aren’t anywhere close to curable. It’s about normalization, much more than functioning well.

Then they go through all manner of hell unlearning this once they’re old enough that everyone gives up on pretending that a cure is going to happen.

If you’re responsible to or for kids with disabilities, do what you can to protect them from this. Make sure they aren’t being pushed to hang their self-worth on accomplishing things that are physically impossible or implausible. Help them to understand hat their bodies aren’t wrong. Teach them that they already have lives worth living.

withasmoothroundstone said:

I was taught that either I’d be cured and 100% “independent”, or I’d be institutionalized forever.  The only two options.  This really fucked up my life in a huge way for a long time.