My Disability Is Not a Superpower


I was diagnosed with nonverbal learning disability as an adult.  I originally didn’t see how much of an impact the timing of my diagnosis had on how I dealt with it.  One of the major benefits it gave me was a power of choice in my circumstances that I don’t think I would’ve had otherwise. I got to research the different perspectives on everything from disability and neurodiversity to language and labels before deciding which ones I prefer. Now that I’ve made those decisions, I realize I naturally aim for a realistic and balanced view rather than any one societal perspective.

While I don’t disagree with trying to be more “positive” abut disability, I do have a problem when the concept is taken too far.  I have heard NLD referred to more than once as a “superpower,” and I strongly disagree. I am a capable adult human being, but I have neurologically-based impairments that don’t just make me different, they often make my life hard. You can say “Everyone has strengths and weaknesses,” and in theory, you’re right, but not everyone’s differences are, according to Miriam Webster’s definition of disability, “A physical, mental, cognitive, or developmental condition that impairs, interferes with, or limits a person’s ability to engage in certain tasks or actions or participate in typical daily activities and interactions.”

Part of accepting my diagnosis meant coming to terms with the fact that disabilities are often a disadvantage. Please don’t dismiss my struggles by refusing to acknowledge them for what they are. Yes, my condition comes with unique strengths, which may seem to others like superpowers because they’re unusual. But those strengths come at a high price. I don’t face discrimination, experience trauma, qualify for reasonable accommodations or receive vocational rehabilitation services because I have superpowers. It happens because I am disabled.

Disability is not defined by “attitude.” This isn’t a “victim mentality,” it’s a realistic perspective I am allowed to have concerning my own circumstances. I am at a neurological disadvantage, end of
story. It’s not my fault. It just is. And for me, calling it a “superpower” won’t change that.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Thinkstock photo by Hidesy.

JOIN THE CONVERSATION

Related to Learning Disabilities

7 Tips for Becoming a 'Warrior Parent' as You Navigate Special Education for Your Child

  Parent advocates in special education know what needs to get done but struggle at times to know how to do it. We recognize the importance of identifying our children’s learning opportunities or monitoring their provider services. But how do you go about achieving high results like some parents with strong advocacy skills? The ones [...]
Mixed-up Scrabble tiles.

Why I'm Starting an Organization for Adults With Nonverbal Learning Disabilities

I am a young woman with a nonverbal learning disability, which simply means I have issues with nonverbal communication and impaired spatial ability. I have met other individuals with NLD by joining groups for individuals and parents of individuals with NLD. I have worked at a nonprofit devoted to assisting people with Turner syndrome, a [...]
Colleagues bullying co-worker.

To the Person Who Called Me the R-Word at Work

I was roughly 11 when I was diagnosed with OCD and an anxiety disorder. It wasn’t until I was about 17 that I was diagnosed with ADHD/learning disability. At that time I had also been diagnosed with and was being treated for clinical depression. There is a lot of stigma that often goes along with [...]
Teacher working with elementary school girl at her desk.

Why I Became a Teacher's Assistant for Children With Learning Disabilities

I always love working with kids of all ages. When I was in school I struggled myself. I liked school but I had a hard time in all subjects — math, reading, spelling, and writing. When I had kids I wanted them to do well in school and never feel how I felt, so I [...]