Asperger's Diary

Life through the lens of Asperger's Syndrome.

Living a Life of "Yes": Is Disability Just About Deficits?

Finding the positive side of disability.

I have been a fan of Dr. Oliver Sacks since I saw first saw the movie adaptation of his book "Awakenings."  Although I had not yet been labeled as having a neurological condition myself, I identified and empathized with the struggles of the patients that were portrayed on the screen and profiled in his book.  

I recently viewed an interview with Dr. Sacks on BigThink.com which touches on issues around living with a neurological condition.   Is there a flip side to conditions that medicine defines in terms of deficits? Dr. Sacks says there can be:

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"Tourette's Syndrome can make life very difficult for one. But, in a sense, there can be another side to it as well, because one’s thoughts are accelerated, one’s coordination may be particularly quick in motions and imagination, may be stimulated, and there’s a sort of positive side to this, in a way, Tourette's is a turned-on state.

And this can sometimes be utilized. There’s some very good athletes with Tourette’s. There are good musicians and performers with Tourette’s. And perhaps if one sees someone with something like Tourette's Syndrome, it’s good to explore possible, positive sides of it.  I don’t say there’s always a positive side, but I think it’s very important to look and not just simply to think in terms of defects and problems, but of different ways of doing things and different ways of functioning"

When living with a neurological condition (or with a loved one who has one), it can be very easy to focus on the challenges and limitations.  But in my life, I have found that focusing on abilities, finding new ways to adapt, have been crucial to my successes in life. Seeking those solutions can even be seen as a form of creativity.   

Although, like anyone, I have my moments of discouragement, I've learned to use my challenges to push me forward. I believe what Dr. Sacks says is very important.  There is much more to a life on the spectrum than just deficiencies and deficits, and those "deficiencies and deficits" can very well be strengths in certain circumstances. 

I see living in a world of "can'ts" as living in the world of "no."  How can we change that?  Are there ways that we change our thoughts, approaches and styles of relating to change the world of "no," into the world of "yes"? 

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Lynne Soraya is the nom de plume for a writer with Asperger's Syndrome.

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