When in counseling at the blindness rehab center in 2005, the psychologist, herself blind from birth, had me read her college thesis. I don’t remember its exact topic – it was soomething about adjustment to disability -, but I do remember her outlinign stages of becoming aware of nd adjusted to disability:
- Adhering to non-disabled standards while not feeling one’s disability is a handicap. This is the stage where a person is mostly unaware of their difference from non-disabled people. People with an acquired disability may not go through this stage – I am not sure whether the psychologist, herslef blind from birth, talked about this -, but congenitally disabled people do, for example, when they’re in special education surroudned by all disabled peers.
- Adhering to non-disabled standards while feeling one’s disability is a handicap. This is the stage of becomign aware of one’s difference, but not accepting it and assuming one shuld really be non-disabled.
- Putting non-disabled standards into perspective while feeling one’s disability is a handicap. This stage is somewhat of an intermediate stage between non-acceptance and adjustment. I think it can be seen as encompassing the reassessmet and reaffirmation stage and the coping stage in Tuttle’s model. While in this stage, the person acccepts the use of alternative techniques, for example, but still feels their disability makes them somewhat inferior.
- Putting non-disabled standards into perspective while not feeling one’s disability is a handicap. This involves self-acceptance as a person with a disability, with an awareness of the way in which one is different but while not seing this as making the person inferior.
I do not remember ever having been unaware of my disability, but my parents tell me that, as a preschooler, I was. I was quite a cheerful child back then. When I was still having the DID diagnosis, my parents assumed the trauma causing it was my having had to go into special education and hence becoming aware of my difference. This is somwhat contrary to my rehab psychologist’s experience, who shared in her thesis that she was mostly naive towards her difference when attending special education.
Stage two is where I was stuck for years or even decades. I was solidly stuck on this stage when I was in rehab. When my mental health conditions forced me to step back and put non-disbled standards into perspective I slowly slided into stage three, but with a twist of overcompensation. I became insistent on accommodations probably a little more than I could expect. I am still not sure whether my emphasis on my difference as a badge of honor, so to speak, is in itself unhealthy. I do think that its masking a sense of inferiority is.
What I am not sure about, is what putting non-disabled standards into perspective means. Can you overemphasize your difference and alienate yourself from non-disabled people? Or are disabled people naturally alienated from the non-disabled through the idea of non-disabled standards. After all, what I see in this stages model, is that the person with a disability is always seen as deviant rather than equal. They adjust to their disabiliy relative to non-disabled standards. Is this really as it should be? From a social model perspective, can we abandon this non-disabled standards paradigm and replace it with ahumand ignity paradigm? If we can, will this make adjustment easier? I will have to think on this.