Tuesday, 15 September 2015

a trip to the vets...

the Autistic, English-writing internet talks a lot about presuming competence. presuming competence is one of the founding principles of the neurodiversity model, it's also a prerequisite for treating people with dignity.

"presuming competence" means understanding that the person you're talking to is a Complex Human Being, with their own thoughts, feelings and needs. their inner lives are just as real and complex as your own, and whatever they're doing they're not doing it at you. Presuming Competence is really hard.

that person who speaks in a thick accent? occasionally stumbling over their grammar? well, they're still doing a lot better than you would in their first language.

the small child in the pram, screaming and disturbing the whole bus? clearly they have the self control of a 2 year old because, well, they're 2. they're learning to be part of society, but very much still a trainee human.

most people understand presumed competence in theory, as long as they're only being asked to apply it to experiences they understand. they may fail in practise, and whine about the baby on the bus, but they understand.

if you're neurodiverse, they don't understand. they insist they are presuming competence, and that's why they expect you to use your words, sit still, calm down. they know you're capable, so just do what they want.

I'm 27. I've been officially ND for 20 years, spent 19 years in formal education (both mainstream and "special"), am out as ND to my GP, and have accessed NHS funded mental health care. the first time I was spoken to with presumed competence by someone who had any sort of authority over me while I was having visible communication issues? last month. and she barely counts as having authority over me (fellow member of the organising team at an event, she was more experienced, and so had a sort of social authority but didn't officially outrank me. she also happened to be on duty at the time and I wasn't).

if I want people to see me as fully human, I have to pass for NT. that's fucked up.

so, what happens when you don't presume competence? well, I refuse to see 2 GPs at my local surgery because I know I won't be taken seriously. I'm also currently not interacting with the NHS on mental health unless it's related to my ESA claim. this might change, but not for the foreseeable future. I've also mostly decided not to disclose when I start training to be a counsellor. at most, I might disclose dyspraxia. maybe...

for me, the benefits of actually getting medical or educational support are now not worth the risk of being seen as subhuman in order to access said support. if I had anything life threatening, maybe I'd feel differently. more likely, I'd feel exactly the same way. I'd still be trapped between being human (but with limited access to health care) or going to the vets as a self narrating zoo exhibit.

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