Kiddo’s Mom over at Autism with a Side of Fries wrote an interesting post titled “All Kids Do That”. The comment that “all kids” do something, is meant to reassure parents of disabled children, or disabled children themselves, that they aren’t all that different. I remember when I was around eighteen, my parents told me that 99% of my schoolmates had the exact same problems I did. I wasn’t different, except for being above-average intelligent (which, given that I went to grammar school, 99% of my schoolmates were, too). And oh sure, I was blind. Maybe that, or my reaction to it, explained all my oddities. Or maybe not.
The thing is, it doesn’t help a parent to hear that they shouldn’t worry about something they know is not typical. It doesn’t help a disabled teen, either. Of course, everyone has some quirks, but most likely you do not know that the disabled child whom or whose parents you try to reassure has many more problems than the behavior you’re currently seeing.
Also, you do not realize how much effort it takes for a disabled child to appear more or less typical. As Kiddo’s Mom says, it took lots of therapy for her son to be able to eat properly, swim or sing. Hopefully, Kiddo’s Mom delights in these results, but it isn’t your job as a stranger to callously assume Kiddo isn’t “really” autistic (or not “that severely autistic”) because he acts so appropriately. Kiddo’s Mom likely doesn’t even realize how much effort Kiddo pours into it, as my parents or staff don’t realize this in my case. Certainly you, being the family friend or relative, or even a complete stranger, do not know.
It is easy to assume that a disabled person isn’t “really” disabled, or isn’t as disabled as they or their parents claim to be, by observing a single behavior. I’ve been told countless times that I should stop posting about my self-care difficulties and meltdowns because I’m not like the commenter’s child, simply because I can write. Sure, there are difficulties that aren’t due to my disabilities at all. My inability to come up with some words in English is more attributable to my being a non-native than to any of my disabilities, and even native speakers of English sometimes have trouble coming up with words.
A disabled person is a person, too. Like Kiddo’s Mom says, sometimes parents of typical kids are slightly shocked when she says Kiddo does something their kids do, too. The underlying assumption is tht a disabled child’s every behavior should be related to their disability. In reality, it isn’t. I am disabled, but I am more than my disabilities. Just because “all kids do that”, doesn’t make me non-disabled, and just because I do something your typical relative does too, doesn’t mean they’re acting like a disabled person.