Benevolent Ableism

As a child, my mother would have me order what I wanted at McDonald’s or other places – no matter how long it took. Many people would get their panties in a bunch if they knew I had autism, like I was some moron who could not order her own food. I could order my own food, it just took me a little longer. A less inspired, less educated woman would have simply ordered for me, but my mother somehow knew I needed the practice of expressing my needs, wants and opinions. The world obviously did not end because I took longer to order the food. I hope other mothers of those with autism realize that those who are able to speak get them to practice using their words. (For those who use other means to communicate, give the child as many opportunities to practice.) I digress a little bit, but the handling of me taking more time to order could have been an example of benevolent ableism.

Benevolent ableism is simply the belief and practice system that looks like help, but is really a form of discrimination. A good example of this, autism-wise, is speaking for the autistic like they are not in the room when the autistic is asked a question – especially if the person is standing next to you! Temple Grandin (for those who do not know, an advocate for the autistic) often tells people who answer for the autistic to stop. “But the person does not want to speak!” you say. How is that true? They are not you! You are not their voice-they have a voice of their own. It is pulling out a chair for someone in a wheelchair who did not ask. It is taking over a person’s financial business when they are perfectly capable of running their own financial business. (I handle my own financial business better than anyone else who has handled mine, thank you.) This attitude that because I have a different way of looking and experiencing things makes me a complete moron unable to take care of myself, or even learn, is wrong. I run a full cleaning schedule and take care of my dog, as well as my mother. Even with her diminished ability to stand and walk for long periods, she is capable of taking care of herself as well. I cover for what she cannot do, but she is certainly not a complete invalid like people have been taught to believe.

I guess the whole point of this is, see us as we are: human beings. Our disabilities should not diminish our humanity in your eyes. I mean, you think you see a person, but are you only seeing, for example, the wheelchair? There is no reason to think a disability, visible or otherwise, is some monster out to get your life. It can be seen differently, you know.

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