“I don’t look like I have a disability, do I?” Jonas Moore asks me. I shake my head. No, I say — he does not. Bundled up in a puffy green coat in a drafty Starbucks, Moore, 35 and sandy-haired, doesn’t stand out in the crowd seeking refuge from the Wisconsin cold. His handshake is firm and his blue eyes meet mine as we talk. He comes across as intelligent and thoughtful, if perhaps a bit reserved. His disability — autism — is invisible.
That’s part of the problem, says Moore. Like most people with autism spectrum disorders, he finds relationships challenging. In the past, he has been quick to anger and has had what he calls “meltdowns”. Those who don’t know he has autism can easily misinterpret his actions. “People think that when I do misbehave I’m somehow intentionally trying to be a jerk”, Moore says. “That’s just not the case”.
His difficulty managing emotions has gotten him into some trouble, and he’s had a hard time holding onto jobs — an outcome he might have avoided, he says, if his coworkers and bosses had better understood his intentions. (1)
Should we treat people with disabilities differently?
Sure we should help them. But what is the best way to do that?
And if they need help because they have a problem, what constitutes a “problem”? Do we know? Is it that they cannot do certain things the way we do them? Is the majority defining the “norm” which we all want people to adhere to?
People with autism have different brains than “normal” people do. So? Should we treat them specially? Or should people with autism treat US specially? Most people have problems in their relationships with other people. Should we treat them all as people with disabilities? Or only the “people with disabilities” deserve being treated as such? Is the result of a disease the cause for special treatment or simply the result, no matter what the cause is?
We are all born as we are born.
We all have special abilities and inherent limitations.
Which ones are critical so as to be tagged as “disabled”?
In a society, the answer can only be one: The ones which are defined by the majority. But should we trust majority? Should we listen to it? Is majority the best way to determine “healthy” and “sick”? If the majority is sick, could it be that we are feeling sorry about people who are actually healthy?
But no one can live together with a child with autism without having too much patience in order to deal with him. Sure. But the same applies the other way around too: The child cannot live with you as well.
No, this is not a philosophical “trick” void of any meaning.
This is life. As it is.
Without any “majority filters” applied…