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Today is Blog Against Disablism Day. Visit Diary of a Goldfish to find all the fantastic posts that will be published today.

I have a coworker who frequently says her daughter is lazy. The girl, I'll call her Sarah, recently turned 16 and has been getting very poor grades this year. Everyone knows she's capable of more, but she just doesn't do her schoolwork without a lot of pushing and external motivation. With the motivation to get her learner's permit and start driver's ed she's pulled her grades up considerably in a short period of time.

No doubt there are a lot of people who are lazy and just don't feel like doing any work. But every time she calls Sarah lazy my hackles raise and I want to scream because she has admitted previously that it is possible that Sarah has ADHD. My coworker's husband thinks he has ADHD and has been thinking of seeking treatment, and ADD tends to run in families. Knowing first hand how damaging it can be for a person with ADHD to be treated as just lazy and unmotivated, it is all I can do not to give my coworker an angry lecture. I struggled for many years thinking I was lazy and wondering why I couldn't do all the things I wanted to do. It caused depression and occasional suicidal thoughts. Research has shown that people with ADHD who go untreated are more at risk for drug abuse and other problems such as depression and anxiety.

The problem is not just misunderstanding or denial of ADHD (though that itself is a huge problem), but the belief that people without visible and/or measurable differences in ability think the same way as the majority of people and ahve teh same needs/motivations/capabilities as, say, neurotypical people. This kind of disablism functions similarly to other privilege: the experiences of the privileged are considered the norm everyone should be expected to live up to. Just as women are expected to simply adapt to institutions and social structures that evolved out of male privilege, those with ADHD are expected to be able to succeed in education and careers designed by and for people with "normal" abilities and ways of thinking. Those who don't are called lazy and irresponsible, or are blamed for not pulling their weight at work.

This all puts a lot of added pressure on people with ADHD to function in ways that are not natural to us and do not allow us to reach our full potential. We often have to struggle so much just to keep up with daily life in a world designed for people who function very differently that we have little energy left to take advantage of the things we tend to be especially good at.

This is where the gift vs curse debate comes in. There is a lot of emphasis on ADD as a "gift" from some groups and individuals while others consider it a "curse." The characteristics of ADHD vary from person to person, but I experience it as a curse largely because of external factors and realities. conforming to a world that experiences time in a way that I understand only on a philosophical level, being expected to have social networks at work to advance my career, being expected to understand social cues that go right over my head all make it that much harder to focus on getting things done because it aggrivates my anxiety.

Diablism comes into play when people don't recognize these challenges. I know that to many my symptoms sound like I'm just being whiney and I should just suck it up and deal with it like "everyone else." I struggled for a long time because I didn't know why I couldn't deal with it like "everyone else."

My point is, there is a certain degree to which a disability like ADHD makes one's life harder. And then there is the crushing weight of the burdens that come with living in a world where people with disabilities are expected to adapt to living the model life, and that is often the worse curse of the two.

Comments

( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
haddayr
May. 1st, 2009 08:38 pm (UTC)
My son has Asperger's and Tourette's, both of which cause him to have ADHD symptoms. And I say to this post:

BRAVO!!!!!!!!!
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )

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