Once you label me you negate me.
Years ago my youngest son's elementary school teacher approached me at a school function and in the short time we spoke our disagreement was clear. Despite all the quirks in his behavior, regardless of his behavior having been diagnosed on the Autism Spectrum, I saw my son as having the power of choice and she didn't.
We're sort of taught to see people with conditions and "disorders" this way. Instead of focusing on the control and choice they do have, we focus on the abilities they are not currently exhibiting. We focus on the "deficit", on the part "ordered" differently (than the majority) that we don't understand.
But I'd seen him suddenly focus when asked if he wanted ice cream. I'd seen him follow sixty some pages of Lego instructions to create the toy of his dreams; I'd seen him both purposeful and deliberate in his intentions and expressions. I'd seen the eye contact, the compassion, and felt the emotional exchange. For me, there was plenty of evidence of an independent thinking, genius, choice-making individual. Though his presentation was atypical often, though he wasn't focusing on what others wanted him to, he was making choices. If we take that from an individual, in our attempts to explain or help him, we've ceased truly seeing him or his potential.
When we see a boy running back and forth, talking to himself and flapping his hands, we assume he has no choice because if he did, he would choose differently. And often, those running do not perceive their choice (at those moments) but behavior always follows perception and the evolution of new perception is always possible and natural.
In the eyes of his teacher, she was showing him compassion. From her vantage point, he was afflicted with a condition. To acknowledge his power of choice would seem to be insensitive. But in her misunderstanding of compassion, she was seeing only the choices he wasn't making.
Acknowledging a person's power of choice may seem like blaming the victim. But if we deny another's ability to choose or learn they can choose, we deny the individual's creative power - a plight far worse than any condition, disorder or disease.
Though it may seem compassionate, seeing anyone as diminished or incapable, regardless of their current situation, in no way serves them. It only threatens to convince the person of his lack of power and keeps his remarkable potential hidden.
From the Inside