This happens a lot in school:
- A disabled kid goes to school.
- A teacher is initially friendly and optimistic.
- The teacher expects that their teaching will make the kid’s disability irrelevant.
- Eventually it becomes clear that the kid’s disability is going to stay important.
- Then the teacher gets frustrated, gives up, or stops being nice.
- Sometimes this is overt and sometimes it’s subtle; it’s always hurtful.
A lot of kids go through this over and over during childhood. And, it often persists into adulthood and becomes a lifelong thing. It hurts. It does damage. And it means that people with disabilities are often suspicious of immediate kindly optimistic affect, and may take a long time to trust that you won’t reject them for being disabled.
If you’re teaching, be careful not to come in with the expectation that your teaching will erase disability or render it irrelevant. It won’t. Instead, start with the expectation that disability will matter and that you will be teaching students with disabilities. Disability acceptance is a key emotional skill for effective teaching. If you think around disability, it’s nearly impossible to apply any creativity to accommodating it. If you’re willing to face disability head on, it’s often possible to find good ways to adapt teaching so that a student can learn.
A reader said:
When people rely on the reassurance of someone else it can be very dangerous for everyone involved.
It depends a lot on the context.
I think there are different kinds of relying on others.
There’s relying on others when you know that your perceptions in some areas are unreliable:
- If you know that you often think things are awful when they aren’t, or that you’ve done something horribly wrong when you haven’t, checking in with others who you trust to have a more reliable perspective can be a good strategy
- You have to be careful who you trust this way
- It has to be someone who is both trustworthy and genuinely willing to do this for you
- And when one or both elements are missing, this can go badly wrong.
- But this is a strategy that works really well for a lot of people, under the right circumstances
Then there’s the kind of relying on others that’s about needing universal approval:
- Sometimes people have a self image that depends on other people constantly approving of them
- And reassuring them that they are good and what they are doing is good
- This gets really bad really quickly
- And often leads to people on both sides of it manipulating each other in destructive ways, and pretty much always leads to one or the other person doing so
- It’s important to be able to accept that not everyone will like you, and that even people who like you will not always like what you do and will be upset with you from time to time
- People who can’t accept this cause a lot of problems for themselves and others
These things are very different, but they tend to get conflated.
Journalists are not your friends or advocates when they interview you.
They might maintain a really friendly affect. They might sound really sympathetic. They might be really good at making you feel heard. This is often a way of manipulating you into saying things that are useful to them. Sounding friendly doesn’t mean that they are on your side.
Journalists write the article that they want to write. It is for their benefit, not yours.
If you keep that in mind, it’s a lot easier to avoid getting into trouble when talking with them.
One of my favorite things about the earlier Harry Potter books is the description of Professor Snape.
Because he’s openly and unapologetically abusive. And so the kids suspect, over and over, that he’s secretely in league with the bad guys. And he isn’t. He’s a bad person, and he hurts people. But he’s not on the side of evil, he’s not working to make Voldemort be in charge again.
And that’s so important, and so rarely depicted, especially in books for kids. It’s really good that it’s in Harry Potter (even though this was somewhat betrayed in the last book).Because people are complicated.
People on the side of good can be assholes. People with the right ideologies, and the right positions on certain life-or-death issues, can still be horrible and hurt people. Someone can get substantive and important things right, and still be an abuser.
Be careful who you trust.Don’t trust someone just because they are liberal. Or conservative. Or radical. Or the same religion as you. Or secular like you. Or because they make beautiful art depicting something important to you. Or because you know they fight against some evil things.
You have to know someone more personally than than to know whether they can be trusted.