Ableism… is this a real thing?

Yes! Although it may sound like an odd word it is a concept that has gained lots of legitimacy. Ableism is a set of values that places non-disabled individuals above disabled individuals. It is the belief that certain talents or tasks can only be accomplished by people without a diagnosis. Its the assumption that someone with a diagnosis cannot do something without any evidence or support.

How does ableism look in everyday life

These thoughts and assumptions are not always meant to hurt. They are often made by well-meaning non-disabled individuals who think they are helping. In actuality, they are assuming the disabled person needs them and cannot do for themselves. Or, they may simply not quite understand the difference between different diagnoses.

A frequent abelist assumption made is that autism and intellectual disability are the same. In this case, the person assumes that an autistic person is somehow intellectually inferior to them simply based on the diagnosis when autism is actually a neurological disorder that does not necessarily impact intelligence. It is possible for an autistic person to have an intellectual disability but assuming an autistic person lacks intellectual ability is ableism.

Another, and more insidious, example of abelism is non-disabled people making decisions for disabled people without involving them or not making it possible for the disabled to have a voice. Part of excluding disabled people involves not factoring in the logistics of inclusion. Interpreters, support staff, sensory consideration, adaptive equipment, etc. We cannot expect someone to have a voice when we make it impossible for them to show up to speak.

Exorcising ableism

To help rid the community of abelism, start with communication and sharing. Communicate with disabled individuals and share in their lives and share the power to impact their lives. Don’t feel as if you as the non-disabled person need to protect them. If you are disabled communicate (in your way) what you want. Share your feelings about both what you can do and what you need. Don’t be afraid to be an active participant in your care and contribute to the community you are part of.


The beneficent disability support team member. Can being kind negatively impact quality? YES!

SETH TALK – my family and my autistic son

Therapy: What is sensory integration therapy? Is sensory integration better than ABA?

I can’t stand my disabled brother! Silent struggle of siblings of the disabled

My Child is Trans, How Can I Best Support Them?

ActuallyAutistic. The new face of self advocacy

But I Was A Victim, Right? Schizoaffective disorder.

Seth the disco teacher – a moment in Seth’s life

ActuallyAutistic. From people first language to self identifying language.

DisabilityScoop: autistic girls are sometimes invisible

Disability marriage. A family is not impossible for adults with ASD.

Where is Seth’s Mom? Walk with Choosy health and fitness event



Share your story with the community. Click here to contact us about doing a SETH TALK.

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External Resources

Mayo Clinic

Support program: Autism Sibling Support Initiative

Support program: Sibling Support Project

Maryland Developmental Disabilities Council

Maryland Early Intervention and Special Education Services

Administration for Community Living

Pathfinders for Autism

Disability Scoop

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

National Center for PTSD

Wounded Warriors PTSD Project

Warriors Journey Post Traumatic Stress

The Blue Ribbon Project: supporting victims of child abuse and youth in foster care

Faces of PTSD