Let’s Talk Disability

Let me preface this post by saying that what I have written is based on what I have been thinking and feeling. I have been listening, researching, and reflecting from others who either have disabilities or from other parents who have children with disabilities. I am bringing this topic up because I think it is one that needs to be discussed more frequently so that it is not looked upon with negative connotations.

So the word I want to discuss today is “disability.” I will admit, this word has been a difficult one for me to accept when it comes to Rhett. In my mind, he can do absolutely anything he wants to do, which is true. The way he accomplishes things may look different than what others do, but he can still reach any goal he wishes. The word disability has become sort of taboo, which is what needs to change. I have had a lot of difficulty accepting that word as a term to describe Rhett, but why? Just because he has disabilities does not make him less. It does not change who he is and how amazing he is. It’s just another word to describe his uniqueness. Now I’m getting off my point. What I am trying to say is that the word disability should not be treated as a bad word. It is a word to describe a person, but the disability is not the person.

Let’s take a look at what the word disability means. The prefix “dis” means being the opposite. For example dislike means to not like something. So disability means not having the ability. One of Rhett’s disabilities is deafness. It has taken me a long time to say that word when talking about Rhett and his hearing loss, but it is the truth. Rhett does not have the ability to hear (without devices), therefore, has a disability of deafness. Now the point I want to make is that Rhett is deaf, but being deaf does not define his abilities. He is still able to communicate, learn, play, and be a kid. Having a disability does not mean he does not have many abilities, but those abilities may look different than what you are used to. His abilities might shine through with the support of an interpreter or special devices like his Cochlear Implants, but the abilities are there. Some people may have a disability of being unable to walk, but they are able to get around with a wheelchair. Some people may have a disability of blindness, but they can learn to read with a special text or walk using a cane. Some people may have a learning disability, but they are still able to learn when taught with certain modifications. With all that being said, a person who has a disability may need accommodations in order to accomplish all they are able to do.

People with disabilities can teach us important lessons. They show us that there is not one right way to do something or reach a goal. They show us that though there may be barriers or challenges, they are still able to do so many things. It’s time to look past the word disability being a negative way to describe part of a person. It is time we all acknowledge when someone has a disability, recognize there may be barriers for them, but see the person for all their amazing abilities. Let’s embrace the term in a positive light so that we may have a more accepting and inclusive world for those who have disabilities.

4 thoughts on “Let’s Talk Disability

  1. Anna, I am not one to be sensitive to words. The word disability has never bothered me. Out of pressure to be politically correct and to not potentially offend anyone, I have changed my vernacular to ‘differently-abled’ or having ‘learning challenges’. I agree with you 100% that the word disability doesn’t define a child as a person. It simply means that the child accomplishes tasks in a way different than the general public. I think when I worked as an OT I always loved working in pediatrics best because for the most part I worked with kids who were born with their disability. For them, they knew no other way to function and their neuroplastic brains more easily learned different ways to accomplish everyday tasks. Similarly, there was no sense of loss of function for these kids so you didn’t have the psychological component of dealing with loss holding them back. Parents, on the other hand, always dealt with this sense of disability (ie. loss) very differently and their coping skills varied wildly. As a parent to kids with learning disabilities now, I understand this sense of loss. I understand that my kids have to work harder and have to be taught differently to be able to keep up with peers. It makes me sad to see their struggles, but I am beyond thankful for every professional who has helped us on our journey. Without their expertise and knowledge, I’m not sure where we would be! Thank you for all you have done to help our family!

    1. Yes! I think we have been taught to use phrases like “differently-baled” in order to not offend, but in turn that has created a negative bias towards the word disability. Several years ago I was having a conversation via Facebook with someone who was deaf, and they told me that yes they have a disability. I had a lot of difficulty with the term disability for a long time and I honestly think it’s because I perceived that word a certain way which in turn made me think others probably did too. If we change our perception, perhaps it will be less scary for new parents as they embark on their journey of having a child with disabilities. Now don’t get me wrong, I still have many hard days of thinking about what Rhett can’t do in comparison to his peers or all that he has to endure to be where he is, but I have learned and am still learning to not dwell in that place. I am so thankful for the relationships I have made through this journey, and I am so thankful to know your family!

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