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If people treated other medical conditions like neurological disabilities

Posted on: January 25, 2016

“Don’t think of yourself as having asthma. Think of yourself as breathing in a very special way!”

“So you’re on medication for your allergies? Aren’t you afraid you’ll get addicted?”

“I guess chronic back pain is now the ‘trendy’ condition to have.”

“We all have days when we feel a little lactose intolerant.”

“I don’t believe epilepsy exists. If I can make it through the day without having a seizure, why can’t you?”

“You’re just using your high blood pressure as an excuse for not trying your best in school or work.”

“You know, it’s okay that you have Celiac’s disease. That doesn’t make you any less of a person.”

“If you just tried hard enough and had a positive attitude, you wouldn’t have eczema!”

“I don’t like the way you call yourself diabetic. It makes it seem like your dietary issues are the only important thing about you.”

“Aren’t you worried that by treating your daughter’s poor vision with eyeglasses, you’ll be further stigmatizing her?”

“You’re too smart to have irritable bowel syndrome.”

“But you don’t look allergic to peanuts!”

 

Now, you may be thinking to yourself, “That’s absurd! No one would say something so ridiculous and offensive to people with those medical conditions!” Just go back and read the list again, and in place of every condition named, imagine that instead it said ADHD, anxiety, depression, OCD, Autism, Asperger’s, dyslexia, learning disabilities, or any other neurological disability.

For instance, “Don’t think of yourself as having dyslexia. Think of yourself as learning to read in a very special way!”

“So you’re on medication for your ADHD? Aren’t you afraid you’ll get addicted?”

“I guess Asperger’s is now the ‘trendy’ condition to have.”

You will see that each item on the list is one that is often said about neurological disabilities. People often make these kind of comments without realizing how inappropriate, offensive, and absurd they are being.

Eczema can’t be fixed with a positive attitude, no matter how hard you try. The same is true for learning disabilities, yet it doesn’t stop people from suggesting that someone “fix” his learning disability with a positive attitude.

It would be offensive to tell a person with epilepsy that you don’t believe her condition exists, just because you don’t have it. It’s just as offensive to say the same thing to a person with ADHD; yet people often don’t realize it.

You can’t tell that a person has a peanut allergy just by looking at him, so it would be silly to say, “You don’t look allergic to peanuts.” You also can’t tell that someone has Autism just by looking at him; so why do some people think it’s acceptable to tell someone that he doesn’t look Autistic?

When someone tells others that she is diabetic, no one thinks that she is necessarily saying that her dietary issues are the only important thing about her. So, why, when someone says that she is dyslexic, do people think she’s saying that her learning issues are the only important thing about her?

No one has days when they are “a little lactose intolerant.” Either you are lactose intolerant, or you aren’t. Similarly, you either have OCD or you don’t; you are never “a little OCD today.”

Neurological disabilities are not quirks or excuses or trends or fads. They are medical conditions, just as asthma, diabetes, epilepsy, and every other condition listed above. Yet, for some reason, people think it is fine to make comments about neurological disabilities that they would never dream of saying for physical conditions.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not suggesting that anyone ought to make the same kind of ridiculous, absurd comments about physical conditions that they do about neurological ones. Rather, I am saying that people should not make those comments about neurological disabilities, either.

It would be wonderful if we lived in a world where having a diagnosis of ADHD or dyslexia or Asperger’s was no more of a stigma than diabetes or asthma or high blood pressure. People with neurological disabilities would be viewed as simply having a medical condition. They wouldn’t be thought of as stupid or lazy or weird or looking for pity or not trying hard enough.  Their differences would just be seen as differences, and nothing more. Parents wouldn’t be blamed for their children’s Autism or learning disability any more than they would be blamed for their children’s epilepsy or peanut allergies.  Taking Ritalin for ADHD would be viewed as being just as acceptable as wearing glasses to treat poor vision.

I sincerely believe that one day, neurological disabilities will be just as accepted as physical conditions. However, there’s only one way that we’ll reach that day, and that’s through education. Those of us with neurological disabilities, as well as our families, friends, and professionals, need to speak up. We need to let everyone know that aside from our diagnosis, we’re no different than the rest of the world; and that we deserve to be treated with as much as dignity, respect, and trust as anyone else.

 

 

 

 

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1 Response to "If people treated other medical conditions like neurological disabilities"

This is a provocative and thoughtful piece. Thank you, Becky!

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