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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.

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Thinkstock photo by Hidesy.


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