Blogger Widgets Ender-Chan's Thoughts: A Twice-Exceptional Perspective on "Differently-Abled"

Friday, September 4, 2015

A Twice-Exceptional Perspective on "Differently-Abled"

I hate the term differently-abled. It implies the existence of having a different ability that enables me to compensate for my disabilities. This term, as a twice-exceptional person, is a slap to the face. No amount of verbal giftedness can compensate for my virtually nonexistent math skills. No amount of knowing French can mask my executive functioning deficits.

Well-meaning parents promote this term often, but they don't know the disservice they are doing to people like me. "Differently-abled" downplays the effects of my disabilities by using my giftedness as a mitigating factor. Giftedness can (sometimes) mask, but not eliminate the effects of a learning or behavioral disability; the converse of this statement is also true. It would be like lighting a faintly-scented vanilla candle and five strong-scented cinnamon candles in the same room. The vanilla candle is still there, but the cinnamon will most likely overpower the vanilla scent.

"I can't reason with numbers, so I translate them into words" is a statement that shows both sides of my thinking. Being able to translate numbers into words does not change the fact that I cannot reason with numbers; I just found a way to work around it. Critical thinking is another one of my strengths, so I can find ways to minimize the adverse effects of my disabilities. Nothing, however, can change the fact that I have them. A master fencer with a broken sword still has a broken sword; an amateur flutist with a professional flute is still an amateur.

Moreover, not having a compensating factor for a particular problem implies laziness or a lack of willpower with the use of "differently-abled". Some people cannot compensate for an issue no matter how hard they try or can, but do not do so, to preserve their health. I cannot have anything if I do not have whatever health I can muster. On more than one occasion, I ran myself ragged and got sick because I devoted energy that my immune system needed to function well to another task. I tire easily, so energy is a precious resource.

Saying "differently-abled" downplays everything I have ever been through to achieve what I have done. You may only see the smiling, attentive face in a class, but a smile can hide a myriad of things. Whenever I walk into a math classroom, I await a death sentence. You may not know I feel this way, but what you see is not what I feel. Remember that the term "differently-abled" harms people like me.     Assuming that I can be left to my own devices simply because my abilities are "different" will leave me struggling with my already low self-esteem.

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