Get widget

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

My autistic child is not your inspiration - Guest post

Originally titled: "She's no angel (but feel free to say something nice about her)"


My two-year-old scrunched up her face and frowned in concentration. She balled up her chubby fist, extending her pointer finger, and selected icons on her iPad screen.

"I. Want. Banana. Please. I want banana, please," said the childlike computer voice. My daughter looked at me, expectantly.

I frowned. "You can't have a banana right now," I told her. "You still have chicken and broccoli on your plate." Months of giving her any food she requested because we were so excited to encourage her language skills were starting to backfire on us.

"I want banana, please," she insisted, selecting the sentence over and over. "I want-- I want-- I want banana, please."

"No banana," I said firmly. "Chicken and broccoli."

She shoved her plate away, arched her back and let out a series of piercing shrieks, kicking her legs angrily.

My daughter-- "Ham"-- is nonverbal and developmentally delayed (with a diagnosis of autism that I'm considering potentially 'in flux' for a variety of reasons I won't try to get into right now). She'll be three in a few months and has about as many speech sounds as the typical ten-month-old. This hasn't changed  substantially in the seventeen months she and her sister have been in Early Intervention, or in the nine months since they started applied behavior analysis (ABA) therapy. In the meantime, though, we saw that she was clearly intelligent and easily frustrated when she couldn't communicate, so we got her an iPad and a communication app called "Speak for Yourself" and the rest is history. It's no easy road, but she can use her iPad and communication app to make simple requests, comments, or even tell jokes (like saying "booboo sad crying" or "oops! oh no! what happened?" and then laughing).

Things I would like to say about my girls: they love swimming, popsicles, Elmo, soccer balls, tutus, toy cars, books, the ocean, never napping ever, visiting their grandparents, going for a walk, and watching our dog go nuts running around on the hardwood floor and slamming into furniture.

But I will never post any of those sparkly GIFs you see plastered all over people's Facebook pages or say the things written on them, like, "my daughter is my Autistic Angel!", nor will you ever hear those words escape my lips.

Here's the thing: my kids are not "angels."

Geez, no one ever wrote this glowing an acrostic poem of ME.
Geez, no one ever wrote this glowing an acrostic poem of ME.
I don't mean to say that they're badly behaved-- no more so than any other soon-to-be-preschooler. It's just that I don't see their deficits as being so devastating that I need to balance them out with a friendly but equally dehumanizing characterization of their personhood.

Calling someone an "angel" as a term of endearment is one thing. We all call babies any number of sticky-sweet, often food-related nicknames-- "pumpkin," "cupcake," etc. That's adorable and I'm the first to admit that my kids have a lot of nicknames,  including the "Chicken" and "Ham" I use to talk about them online.
"Autistic angel" and its ilk are different. It's a personality trope-- a designation that limits a person with special needs to something more palatable than their diagnoses.  I think it makes logical sense that people would want to balance the more negative messages about disability in our society with positive ones. But when the pendulum swings too far in the opposite direction, it's just as far from its origin as it was before. I'm not the first person to make this observation.

By talking about the value of a disabled "angel" as mitigated by what she has to "teach" you about yourself, you reduce her to a functional tool in your own development-- something less than a full and separate person on her own. See what I mean about how damaging even positive attributes can be?
Why not, "Never Ignore Somebody With a Disability Because That's Super Rude and Uncool"?
Why not, "Never Ignore Somebody With a Disability Because That's Super Rude and Uncool"?

My children are still young, and I don't know what the future holds for them. But I do know that 83% of women with developmental or intellectual disabilities are sexually assaulted (and only 3% of assaults are reported). I know that people who are nonverbal or have limited communication are often unable to tell anyone that they have been abused or feel unsafe. The problem isn't the disabled person, but everyone else, when accessibility, safety, and access to resources are limited or nonexistent. This is the other thing that happens when we don't treat disabled individuals as people, the thing we don't like to talk about-- the other side of the pendulum.

Before saying something or sharing an "inspiring" image, ask yourself: does this statement or image turn a disabled person into a tool for boosting someone else's self-esteem or remind them that their own life could be worse? Does it distill someone's personhood and identity down to something that makes everyone else feel better about their disability? Does it "fix" the disability by neutralizing it and balancing it out with something palatable?

Instead of sharing these messages, you could listen to disabled people tell us about themselves. More and more, disabled teens and adults are speaking up and letting us know what they think and how they feel, including addressing the tendency of non-disabled people to be "inspired" by disabled people living their ordinary lives. Rob J. Quinn's book I'm Not Here to Inspire You: Essays on Disability From a Regular Guy Living With Cerebral Palsy, excerpted in his article here, and Stella Young's funny and powerful TED Talk "I'm Not Your Inspiration, Thank You" are two examples.

Please choose to share these messages and not your own manufactured ones. Let's amplify the disabled self-advocates's own thoughts and take a backseat on creating our own. Share the messages that will help them feel good about themselves, not the ones that help us feel better about them.


Jules wrangles toddlers, herds therapists, and eats cereal hastily over the sink. Follow her occasionally-updated blog at The Adventures of Chicken and Ham.



  1. Perfectly stated. I've long thought being "inspired" by my kids makes them a tool. Now that I think about it, it makes the one being inspired look like a tool. Great post!


  2. Thank you DR BLESSING for your genuine and powerful love spells. I'm Lilian by name. From California This is really incredible, and I have never experienced anything like this in my entire life. Before i met you Sir, i have tried every probable means that i could to get my husband back, but i actually came to realize that nothing was working out for me, and that my husband had developed lot of hatred for me.. I thought there was no hope to reunite with my husband. But when i read good reviews about how DR BLESSING helped others, I decided to Email him at to give it a try and i did everything that he instructed me and i Trusted in him and followed his instructions just as he have guaranteed me in 24 hours, and that was exactly when my husband called me..Sir We are more contented now than ever. Everything looks perfect and so natural! Thank you so much Sir for your authentic and indisputable spells. here again his
    contact details you too can be blessed with his work

    Thanks Sir for your help.


    I was so depressed when my ex left me for another woman. it made me felt like i was not relevant and my heart and love life was seriously destroyed. i could not concentrate in anything i was doing. i went online and searched for help but could not find any genuine spell caster until i went to Ocala Florida to visit my aunt to ease the depression and loneliness. when i got to Florida, i explained to my aunt who then felt pity for me and told me the secret she have not told anyone about the success in her marriage with her man. she then took me to the temple of powerful Dr. Ugo Wonders whom i met and explained my problems to. he promised to help me because of my aunt. i trusted his words and provided him with the materials needed to help me get my ex back and to my greatest surprise, after 48 hours of casting the spell, my Ex cam back on his knees begging for me to forgive him. i was shocked and surprised at the magic. we are happily married now and everything is working fine with us.I promised Dr. Ugo that i will never keep this a secret because he brought back my life and my world and that i will hare my testimony to the general public.
    My advice goes to any one out there who is emotionally depressed or having any similar relationship problem, to contact Dr. Ugo wonders the ultimate spell caster via his direct email or call his temple line on +1 386-336-9876 he is the best in Florida....

  4. hostgator coupons & Promo Codes (75% Off) - Nov 2018 Discounts

  5. Both pay-per-click and SEO are targeted to get your website placed as close to the top of search engine results as possible. Marketing and SEO are different, yet very, very similar. seo and link building usa


  6. *Youre so cool! I dont suppose Ive read anything like this before. So nice to find somebody with some original thoughts on this subject. realy thank you for starting this up. this website is something that is needed on the web, someone with a little originality.
    This is the right blog for anyone who wants to find out about this topic. You realize so much its almost hard to argue with you . You definitely put a new spin on a topic thats been written about for years. Great stuff, just great!

    Web Development

  7. Dr. Miracle Herbal Medicine Is A Good Remedy For Herpes, I Was A carrier of Herpes and I saw a testimony on how Dr. Miracle, cure Herpes, I decided to contact him, I contacted him and he guided me. I asked him for solutions and he started the remedies for my health. After he finish casting the spell, he told me to go for check up, could you believe that i was confirm herpes negative after the test, and i went to a different hospital and it was also negative, i am so happy today because i'm free from herpes disease with the help of Dr. Miracle. Thank God, now everything is fine, I'm cured by Dr.Miracle,herbal medicine, I'm very thankful to Dr. Miracle, Reach Him On (( Or What App Him Or Call: +39(349)549- 4143,,, DOCTOR MIRACLE CAN AS WELL CURE THE FOLLOWING DISEASE:- (1). HERPES( 2). HIV/AIDS (3). CANCER ALL KINDS (4). Hepatitis A,B,C (5)Pregnant (6) Penis Enlargement ,,,,

  8. I use to be a very poor woman who has always not find luck when it comes to playing the lottery. I have been playing lottery since i was 21 years and now i am 45 meaning i have been playing lottery for 24 years. The biggest amount i have ever won in my life was 400 bucks. But one day my story turns to history after i find this man name on the Internet that he is the best when it comes to winning lottery. This man is a very strong voodoo doc who gives out the numbers that can never fail. After all my years of laboring and struggling to win the lottery i finally won ( $27,000,000) Dr Alli is the name, Email: or contact him on his whatsApp number +2348100772528 this is the only way to win the lottery and the best way



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...