Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Don't Be So Hard On Yourself!

Recently, I read a comment by a deaf woman who complained about people's reactions to her acknowledging that her speech can be hard to understand at times. Almost everyone replies 'Don't be so hard on yourself! Your speech is fine!' or something to that effect.
Thias annoys her, she says, partly because of the assumption that she's 'being hard on herself' by acknowledging a real difficulty she has, and partly because of the assumption that they know better how understandable her speech is. Granted, she can't hear her own speech, but she has a lot of experience with people's reactions to her speech, under different circumstances, which makes it clear to her that though her speech is usually fairly understandable, under adverse circumstances (such as talking to someone who is not very proficient in English) her speech is less understandable than most English speakers.
Recently, I experienced a similar thing. I was talking to the parent of an autistic boy I know and mentioned an idea I had (for a program where older/higher functioning autistics help younger/lower functioning autistics). She told me I should start something like that up, to which I replied that it would be quite difficult for me because of my organizational difficulties. She told me not to be so hard on myself, and that I was very smart - she could tell by how I talked. I tried to explain that in a one-on-one conversation about ideas, my strengths are more evident than my weaknesses, explaining how speech is a real strength for me, but she didn't seem to get it. She still thought I was being hard on myself.
(It's important to note that she's a good friend and a wonderful mother to her autistic son. One thing I admire about her is how she really gets that he's much more intelligent than his test results would suggest. She adamantly insists he is not 'profoundly retarded' as his IQ test scores suggest, something I agree with. His more overt abilities are in concordance with his test scores, but he shows signs of understanding much more than he can express.)
I was kind of disturbed by this. I'm not sure what to do about this. I know I have organizational problems, and acknowledging these has greatly helped me. Thinking that 'smart people can do this' led me to think I must not really be that smart. How can I get her to see that her attempt to reassure and encourage me is actually more likely to hurt me than help me (if I accepted what she said as correct)? She linked organizational skills to intelligence in her statements to me. She did so to help me feel better about my organizational skills, but a more likely result of such a link is for me to feel worse about my intelligence.
[A side note: my Dad just got my brother a ukelele, and the only human family member who hasn't been playing it is my mother. I can do Mary Had a Little Lamb, the riff to Smoke on the Water, and the scales.]

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Blogger Quijotesca said...

I briefly met with a case worker who would not let me say anything negative about myself, and that included saying stuff like pointing out that I was not good at lifting heavy objects and that I have poor motor skills. Wow. I got so frustrated with her to the point that I was crying and asked her and asked if my pretending that wasn't a problem would make it go away. I asked her if it wrong for me to also say that I couldn't sprout wings and fly around the room. She apparently left the experience thinking I was the one who was being unreasonable. Thankfully, that wasn't the primary organization I worked with so my contact with her after that point was minimal. She seemed to be in the wrong line of work, though. Fluffy thinking isn't going to make disabilities disappear and if I didn't have any, I wouldn't have been talking with her.

4:45 PM  

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