The big sticking point in why those with any sort of additional need are seen so differently is because any positive part is completely overlooked. When people don’t know much about a disability, it seems to be a default position to become sympathetic and say something like “that must be so hard”. I’m not denying that it is hard, as there are so many barriers to overcome, but why not talk about some of the positives? What’s wrong with admitting that there are some good sides to something seen to be so difficult? So, in the spirit of having the Friday Feeling, let’s talk about a positive that comes with having a language disorder: brutal honesty.
Some context. My sister has a language disorder as part of her condition, meaning that she struggles a little bit with all the complex bits of language. This is the sort of stuff like understanding additional meaning, following conversation and all the social conventions that the rest of us find a gigantic pain (such as asking someone you don’t particularly like how they are because you “have to”). This does make a lot of things difficult for her, especially as language disorders are an invisible disability, so a lot of people assume she understands more than she does and she can sometimes get a bit stuck, BUT it’s phenomenally helpful in a variety of situations. For example, saving yourself a bit of cash and managing relationships without the faffing about.
A couple of Christmases ago, we were all opening presents and she opens an absolutely gigantic box of really fancy smellies, as well as a huge box of chocolates. She showed us the tag, and it turned out they were from her boyfriend. We all said how lovely that was, and how she had been spoilt, and then I asked her what she bought him.
Her reply? “Nothing. I didn’t want to get him anything.”
I immediately burst out laughing at this point. As she doesn’t understand the social convention of buying presents for other people if they’ve bought you something, especially a boyfriend, she genuinely did not feel the need to buy him anything. Yes okay, it’s a tad harsh, but whereas the rest of us would be wracked with guilt, she was perfectly content with getting lots of lovely presents without reciprocating. She saved herself some cash and didn’t panic herself about what to get him, instead focusing on her family and other closer friends. Personally, I wish I could get away with doing something like this, especially when it comes to people like work colleagues and in-laws, so her ability to take the stress out of Christmas seems to be a bit of a win.
Her attitude to relationships in general is also quite enviable. She once told me on FaceTime that she might dump someone because “they’re a bit boring”. Why not! As good of a reason as any! Whereas I spent over a month in turmoil feeling horrendous at the thought of dumping my ex-boyfriend, trying to think of lots of valid reasons to try and ease being broken up with, she simply understood that she wasn’t happy and did something about it. Her language disorder means that cause and consequence are very tricky, but this ensures her own happiness and means she doesn’t over-complicate things like the majority of adults do. Again, it means that she can be a brutal and won’t “soften the blow”, but it means that she knows her own mind and is able to communicate her needs in a simple, unambiguous way. Brilliant.
Having a language disorder means that, although she can’t follow any sort of complex conversation, my sister is able to do things that make her happy and enjoy the company of others without having all the social conventions of what to say and what not to say. #ADisabilityPositive for her, therefore, is that she only spends time with people she likes, does things that she wants to do and doesn’t worry herself with having to conform to social rules that can really irritate other people.
(P.S. A little tip if you’re ever in the company of someone with a language disorder, don’t be polite and ask “does anyone want the last biscuit” when you really want it. If they want it, they will have it. Why wouldn’t they? You’ve asked if anyone wants it, it’s your fault for not being blunt.)