Monday, October 17, 2011

Why Can't It Be Like This?

Imagine this for a moment. I don't have a disability. Instead, you (assuming you're NT) have superpowers.

You have the power to rapidly and intuitively analyze a person's facial expressions and figure out exactly what they're feeling. It's a subtle power, but it's pretty amazing, because it means you can make a very accurate guess at someone's emotions without them even saying a word. And from a lifetime of having this power, you've learnt how to say and do things just right to get the reaction you want out of people - not all the time, but often enough to count.

You also have supernatural agility and coordination. When a ball goes flying in your direction, you can catch it in midair. And then you can throw it and have a reasonable idea of where it'll end up, more precise than 'to my left somewhere'. With some practice, you might even be able to throw a ball through a hoop, or pass it to another similarly-gifted person. Furthermore, you can look at someone doing a movement and imitate it reasonably well, without needing detailed instructions as well. And once you know how to do something with your left hand doing role A and your right hand doing role B, you don't need any instruction to switch which hand does which task. You don't need to figure it out all over again. And you don't get tired very easily, either. At the end of a long day. you can still walk smoothly and easily, unless you decided to have a few too many drinks.

You also have this small but incredible power to tell the time without needing a clock. Sure, a clock is more precise, but you'll be a half an hour off at most. You don't faint at 2:30 because you didn't realize it was past lunchtime. Instead, when someone comes up and asks the time, you might answer without digging out your watch, or if you do dig it out, it'll be to adjust your estimate or check it's accuracy. You might even have the ability to tell time in your sleep, so you awaken just before the alarm clock goes off.

You also have super senses. Not that they're any sharper - in fact, they may actually be less acute - but you can tune out the irrelevant. And a fire alarm doesn't paralyze you. In fact, you might even be able to help someone less fortunate to escape the fire. Your ability to withstand sensory bombardment is so impressive, you can actually enjoy musicians playing at full volume in a large building packed to the brim with people. Not only doesn't that experience leave you hiding in a corner rocking and covering your ears, you actually enjoy it!

But you know what they say - with great power comes great responsibility. Now, your powers aren't particularly great, but at the very least, you're expected not to misuse them. Your ability to understand emotions, in particular, is easy to cause harm with. You could convince someone to trust you, then set them up for a fall. You could tailor your insults to hit precisely where the person's self-esteem is poorest, so you really devastate them. You can gather allies so your victims have no one to turn to. But you're not a villain, so you won't do that. Instead, when you see others with similar powers misuing them, you'll jump in and stop it, right?

And most importantly, you won't put yourself above the people who don't have superpowers. Because superpowers don't make you a superior person, and you know that.


Blogger Andrea Shettle, MSW said...


This is well written. I have now been reading your blog for some years now and feel like I have been watching you grow as a writer because I think this piece is stronger than what you might have written a few years ago.

And, I agree: Why can't it be like this?

4:17 AM  
Blogger Eric said...

hrm, for whatever reason I am able to attend really loud punk shows without having sensory problems...

but footsteps on the next floor up can bring me to tears.

anyway, great post.

5:09 PM  
Blogger Liz Ditz said...

Hi Ettina, I'm part of the editorial team at The Thinking Person's Guide to Autism

The editorial team really like this post, and we'd like to republish this article. Would you mind emailing me to tell me if you are agreeable to this proposal?

My email lizditz at gmail dot com

10:49 AM  

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