Special needs adoption from a Jewish perspective.

Special needs adoption from a Jewish perspective.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Calling out ableism

In the course of conversations, I occasionally get the opportunity to call out examples of casual able-ism.  Usually, when this happens, the other person will apologize and move on.  Yay!

In a recent conversation on Facebook, however, I came across someone who described a public personality as:

I just think he doesn't care one way or the other. He goes with whatever way the wind blows. Frankly, I think he is somewhere on the spectrum.

To which I responded:

Why did you use "on the spectrum" as a slur..?

The response showed a lack of understanding as to what I meant:

I didn't. I used it quite seriously. He seems disconnected. His affect is off. Galit, I am disturbed you drew the wrong conclusion about me.

So I explained:

Autism and ASD are not equivalent to apathy ("I just think he doesn't care one way or the other.") Nor do people on the spectrum typically "go with whatever way the wind blows."

Now the other person got really upset:

Galit, you know nothing about me and you are making slurs against ME. Go away.

Whoa!  Did I say anything that warranted that?  Did I say anything about the person I was conversing with?  Well, I tried to calm things down:

 I didn't claim to know anything about you, nor did I slur you. I do know something about autism. I understand that you might have made the statement you did out of a common misconception about the nature of autism. I am sorry if I touched a raw nerve for you with my comments. There is much prejudice around disability, even today, and I try to point it out when I see it come up in casual conversation. I don't want to hijack the thread, that's not what it is about. Peace.

Alas, peace was not to be had:

Galit, you lectured me. You made assumptions about me. And you are still doing so. Please go away.


Was I off base?  What do you think was going on?
(Obviously, I did not persist at this point, as any further attempts seemed pointless.)


  1. This is a good example of why "we" don't bring up the subject as much as maybe we should. How many times has a friend ( A FRIEND) used the r-word around me and my son and I don't even say anything, because, well...
    Then again, there are people I have called out, and they have made the effort to change their easy slurring ways :) I guess I've tried to gage it a bit based on where *that* person is. This is a bit of a ramble, sorry, but you asked and
    I am still wtithout a real answer.
    I am impressed when people have the wherewithal and the courage to speak up, but if a person isn't ready to listen, they can't hear either.
    I guess we just have to keep trying. Maybe the next person who brings it up to your friend will get through...

    1. Thanks!
      For all I know, the other person has a child or other family member on the spectrum, and is speaking from her experience. We certainly know of many well-meaning caretakers and family members who nonetheless perpetuate ableism.

  2. Based on your FaceBook friend's comments -- "I am disturbed you drew the wrong conclusion about me", "you lectured me", "you made assumptions about me" -- it sounds as though your friend is feeling sensitive about all this.

    (Personally, I don't think the accusations are justified, based on what you're repeated here. Is lecturing a sin? What's wrong with making assumptions? If I make an assumption about you -- we all do this, every day -- and my assumption is incorrect, then you correct me, right? You don't make me wrong for having had the gall, the audacity, the chutzpah to have made assumptions about you.

    I read a while back -- on FaceBook, actually -- that we should strive to be kind, always, because everyone we meet is struggling with battles we know nothing about. So let's assume that your friend is struggling with something big -- not necessarily having anything to do with the subject at hand -- and let's hope that, sooner or later, your friend will deal with it, if possible, or reach out and ask for help if not.


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