Thursday, October 4, 2012

Examining Non-Typical Behavior part III: About "Teaching" and "Teachers"

And here we are again! Sorry it's been so long. Exams coming up. But I promised you one of my FAVORITE myths. Pay attention to this one. It’ll help a lot.

Myth 3: If you just teach a non-neurotypical person, they can learn how to be "normal."

Brace yourself, because I am about to say one of those really offensive things we are repeatedly told NOT to say.

You are not normal.

The problems with the assumption that a person with any kind of disability can be "taught" to function appropriately by a kindly and patient person who does not have a disability are so numerous that I could write several thousand words of rage covering the subject and still not be quite done with it. I promised myself I would not rage in this post, so I won't be doing that. What I do want to focus on with this is the assumption that any person with a disability obviously functions at a lower social level than any person without. Enabled people, round the world, listen up: 

You are not normal.

You have your own hang-ups, habits, and fears. You are sometimes over-sensitive. People have hurt you. Your expectations have been challenged. You have self-esteem issues. Your sense of self can be threatened. You can be passive-aggressive. You can have a morality message you deeply wish to impart. You are flawed. Whatever the reason, you are not always good mirrors of society as a whole. People who are non-neurotypical tend to try to behave toward individual people, the way they have been treated by those individual people, which goes back to why putting on social roles is so difficult for us to master. It also explains why we cannot treat you as you would treat other people.

Example: I once had a very passive-aggressive friend. She was one of those girls raised by women to believe that the reason those women did not treat her well was because, deep down, all women hated each other. So she was always very snarky and sharp with me, and unconsciously combative or competitive with me in public. I of course, could not, and did not compete, because I was mostly uncomfortable, but in private, when I was snarky, sharp or combative with her, she suddenly found that behavior offensive, and took to telling me the way I spoke to people was rude and I really needed to follow her lead, because I had no idea how horrible I could be. This came about because I honestly did not understand, in my high school years, why someone who considered me a friend would want to hurt me. Assuming she didn't intend to hurt me with things she did and said, as she said she didn't, I didn't think of my behavior toward her as being hurtful.

Same sort of thing, my dad and I had a hell of a time in my teenage years, because he was constantly telling us off for tiny little things, while regaling us with stories of his misspent youth driving motorcycles, tormenting college kids, smoking pot and dating three girls at once. Compared to him, I was a relative saint, but most kids know not to remind their parents that. Not so much me.

If you are hurt by something a non-neurotypical person does or says, I'm not saying, "Don't say anything, they can't help it." I"m saying watch your language. Lots of people with mental disabilities or other neurological differences take things far more literally than the rest of you. Ignoring it completely does not make it null and void, there are going to be times when you're going to be embarrassed by something zie has to say, or does, and just like with other people, you have to pick your battles. Say things like "I am pissed off right now." not the kind of thing I hear most often, which is, "I know you can't help it, but other people..." Because firstly, you don't know every other person, and non-neurotypical people are likely to take that literally, and assume every other person in the room is pissed at them, and secondly, we don't need you to do us any favours by putting up with us. It's just as hard for us to be friends with you. Social interaction is hard. We think you're worth it.

If we are not worth it to you, don't bother, we'll get over it. We don't look to you as teacher or as inspiration for what could be possible in our lives. Some of us are lonely, but it's not because there aren't a lot of people in our lives. There are a lot of people in our lives, and many of them take liberties they shouldn't. If we like you, it is because we think you are a good person we actually have things in common with. If you refuse to see a non-neurotypical person as an equal, well, my personal feeling is you're a pretty shit person, but experience has taught me, more than that, you are not worth the effort you require of me.

I'll be elaborating on the complications of the notion of the "teaching" and "inspirational" models of people with disabilities, as soon as I can get off my behind, and am not neck-deep in essays.

See you soon then!