This is directed at other disabled people. But I’m sure I’ve done the same thing myself so I’m not pointing fingers, just trying to create more understanding.
I know an autistic woman who insists to me over and over, that the reason she can talk and I can’t anymore, is that she was left no choice by her family other than to talk. That they drove her kicking and screaming into the nonautistic world. With an implication that if this had happened to me too, I would still have speech.
She doesn’t understand what happens to those of us who are left no other choice but to do something, and still can’t.
I have something called autistic catatonia. Which basically means my form of autism involved not only a loss of skills in infancy, but a longer more gradual one starting at puberty that involved a lot of sensory processing and motor planning issues. Where motor planning affects not just physical movement but also cognitive. I lost speech abruptly in infancy, regained it, and lost it gradually in adolescence. It started with short periods of being unable to speak and went to longer ones and more frequent as I got older. My speech development was far more complicated than that, but for these purposes it’s all you need to know.
When I began having more periods of inability to speak, that’s where the merciless abuse began. It happened from other kids including an ex, but also from people like my adult brother who would shut me outside in the cold until I could talk again.
This included having people shout in my ears, punch me in the face, jump up and down on me, shake me as hard as possible, mock me, say really nasty things in my presence, accuse me of being on drugs, and beat me really hard saying they’d stop when I started talking again. Not to mention sexual assault of several kinds that I was incapable of moving well enough to prevent, that kids and adults watched and did nothing.
It’s insulting to tell me that the reason I can’t talk is that nobody tried to beat it into me the way they beat it into you.
Yes, if someone is JUST LIKE YOU, then maybe being abused into it would make the difference between being able to talk and being unable to.
But not everyone is just like you.
Some of us encountered just as much if not more abuse, but ultimately couldn’t get it if it by talking the way you could.
I understand the impulse to explain that you have a skill because of intense internal or external motivation, and that without such motivation you’d never have learned it. And yes absolutely there are people who didn’t learn it because they weren’t beaten into it or weren’t as stubborn as you.
For me a skill like that is understanding language. One factor in my ability to both understand and use language is intense motivation to do so, including both fun inside and from outside. People without that motivation but otherwise just like me may have much less, even no language comprehension. And that’s fine, not an insult to me or them.
There are also people who would never understand or use language no matter how hard they tried our how hard anyone worked with them on it or used abuse as a motivator.
So my reaction to the existence of people who can’t do these things, shouldn’t be “oh but that’s because they didn’t hang on by the skin of their teeth for as long as I did.”
That’s undoubtedly true for some people but it’s not the deciding factor for everyone. And it’s pretty insulting to assume that it is.
I get really tired of people telling me that the only reason they can do something I can’t is something like hard work or motivation. You think I wasn’t motivated enough to develop self care skills by starving and living in filth for over a year? If you do, please don’t talk to me about it, you’ll just piss me off.
Again, there’s nothing wrong with acknowledging the role of motivation, hard work, abuse, in creating the skills you have now. It’s very true that without those things we all wouldn’t have turned out the same. Just please try to remember those aren’t the only factors. That it required not only motivation and hard work, but also the abilities and opportunities in place that allowed you to use that hard work in the way you did. Abilities not everyone has.
Thanks for listening.