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When Friends With Disabilities Make Disparaging Remarks About Others With Disabilities

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Throughout my educational career as a person with autism, I have been in several different programs with people of varying levels of ability. Having this experience, and a mother who worked in the disability field who explained how things worked, taught me to embrace my differences while simultaneously encouraging others to do the same.

Unfortunately, not all young adults with disabilities have that mentality. I know people who have an “I’m disabled, but I’m not like them” mentality towards people with more “significant” disabilities, or see themselves as being “less impaired.” For example, when I went to the movies with my family and a friend who has Asperger’s syndrome for my birthday, a van from a group home and some young adults were outside. One of the youths greeted my friend with “Hi, honey!” My friend shook his head and said “Lots of obnoxious kids out here.” Of course this comment hurt me deeply, but I didn’t know how to properly call him out on his hurtful remark.

God bless my mother — she simply stated, “Sometimes the best reaction is no reaction at all.” And then there are acquaintances and peers of mine also on the autism spectrum who casually drop the R-bomb or use the term “special needs” in a condescending manner when referring to someone with perceived lower intelligence. It’s like, even in the world of disabilities, there is a level where people who are more impaired are lumped into a category of inferiority.

This casual ableism is petty and hypocritical. Regardless of our level of functioning, we are all the same at the end of the day — and not just because people with so-called “higher functioning” disabilities also struggle with being perceived as “different,” just like people with more significant difficulties. We are all human. People without disabilities still to this day are struggling to grasp this concept. We do not need this internalized ableism. Not everyone is not going to feel the same about their disability. Some people (like me) enjoy talking about their disability and viewpoint of life through that lens, while others dislike the anxiety component of autism or disability or are uncomfortable talking about it. That’s OK.

But it is never, ever OK to demean others. That’s not cool.

Spread the Word to End the Word! You can head here to pledge to stop using the R-word. It’s a step toward creating more accepting attitudes and communities for all people.

The Mighty is asking the following: What’s one commonly held opinion within the community surrounding your disability and/or disease (or a loved one’s) that doesn’t resonate with you? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

Originally published: January 26, 2016
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