You’re NOT helping

I am sick to my stomach tonight. 

I know. I’m making a big deal out of nothing again, right?


The issue is this video. In it, a developmentally disabled young man, the manager of his school’s basketball team, is put into the game in the last few moments.  His teammates are trying to pass him the ball, but he’s missing, every time.  Then the opposing team, with the score pretty much locked in, passes him the ball and he scores.

Parents are hailing it as phenomenal and “such an inspiration”.

It makes me want to throw up.

It reeks of patronization.  

It reminds me of too many instances where people were nice to me, because I was weird, because I was disabled.  Or maybe they were an assigned friend.  It would be years before I discovered that many of my childhood friends weren’t actually friends at all.  

Listen, I’m total crap at sports.  I didn’t play sports, and the only thing that ever came close to sports was in 8th grade, when I tried out to be a cheerleader.  This is actually pretty relevant, so let me tell you the story.

I thought it was competitive.  I was told from the very beginning that only a certain number of girls would get in.  It was a two week long cheerleading day camp, and we worked hard.  We bonded with the other girls, we worked out, we came up with cheers.  All in all, it was hard work, and I wanted to succeed.  On the final day, I had my routine down, or so I thought.  I completely bombed.  I knew I had.  And yet, my teammates told me I did fabulously.

And in the end, you know what happened?

I got in. 

I wasn’t good.  Not one bit.  I had almost no coordination.  I can dance to a beat, but I’m not flexible, and I was really too chubby even at 13 for the look of that particular squad.  I still got in.

And now, it’s hard to trust.  

When someone tells me that something I’ve done is good, I don’t believe them. Even when a lot of people tell me I’m good at something, I have a difficult time believing them.  Because 19 years ago, I was lied to repeatedly.  I was told I was good.  It wouldn’t have happened if I weren’t disabled.

I get the point behind this sort of “inspirational” video.  I understand.  That we want to believe that humans are decent, and do things for others that are kind for no reason except to help our fellow man is a good thing.  I know that the intent behind this video is good.  But intent is not magic, and therefore, I’m hurt.  I’m hurt that I once again have to defend my stance here, that I once again have to explain why I’m not here to be your inspiration   That I don’t live my life so you can be inspired.  That other people displaying the basic level of human decency is what should be expected, and is not something to be praised. 

I’m sorry this isn’t as articulate as other people’s posts have been (links one, two, and three) . I’m too upset that I’m having to do this again and again and again.  Sometimes advocating for myself, for my kids, for other Autistics, well, it’s tiring. Explaining why people trying to do a good thing are actually part of the problem is neverending. Forgive me for getting tired sometimes.



5 thoughts on “You’re NOT helping

  1. I am so sorry that this video upset you 😦 I do not think you have to apologize for your stance on it or your explanation of why it made you feel frustrated and sick. I will admit that the flurry of unhappy blog posts in response to this video have been something of a punch in the gut to some, including myself. No one likes to realize that they were being *that* person. So responses such as yours can be almost as big a sucker punch to some as the video itself was to you. Even so, I do not think you need to apologize for disliking this video.

    I get where you are coming from, in regards to people needing to be allowed to be treated equally, even if that means at the risk of people being disappointed or feelings getting hurt. NO ONE enjoys being patronized. There actually is a trend now with youth sports (little kids) to make many leagues non-competitive, where no score is kept and no one ultimately wins. While I understand that the people behind this idea were trying to foster a love for each sport without the pressure and stigmatization that can come with it (including parents behaving like uncivilized apes at their children’s sporting events), I also think that a huge part of participating in sports is, in fact, the lesson that people *do not* always win. You *will not* always succeed at everything you try. And if you want something bad enough (to be on that basketball team, in that dance company, part of the cheer squad, or even land that dream job) you are going to have to work your tail off and show why you *DESERVE* it. You need to earn your wins in life, and your losses, or else what the hell was the point? It’s hard to feel like you are actually “doing your best” when someone is just giving you the rewards for nothing.

    So, yes, I get what you mean here entirely. I clearly cannot speak for every person who was moved by that video, only for myself. And as for myself, I am so cynical, and jaded, and frustrated with the vast majority of people in the world that I often lose hope and feel saddened at the state humanity will be in as my children become adults and become larger players in the world. Every once in awhile I see something that makes me think for just a second that maybe every person out there is not an a**hole after all, and there are at least a few pockets of individuals who can look outside themselves for a moment. This video caught me off guard last night when I was felling kinda down about things, and in that moment, it was that “something” and had that effect on me. And then about 5 second after watching it (and yes, sharing it) I saw the Yes, That Too response to it, and then felt terrible. And still felt terrible this morning when I woke up. It leaves me conflicted: I am glad there are some individuals trying to be decent human beings, I am sad that their well-intentioned efforts can often deeply hurt the very people they are trying to be decent to.

    Unfortunately, as human beings we are ALL flawed, so even these small attempts at decency will be imperfect, and while honorable or noble in intent, will fail on some other level. You are right; there is an element of failure in the inspiration some of us find in such things. Many people do not have the capacity to always imagine how all parties will react to any gesture *intended* to be kind or helpful, and so it is somewhat inevitable that something will always be left out of the equation, and someone will always get hurt. It seems this time around it was a large number of Autistic individuals that I have much love and respect for. And for that, I am very, very sorry.


    1. I really appreciate this response because it was kind, compassionate and understanding of why people are hurt by this video. I do appreciate that a lot, actually, because I don’t always get that sort of treatment when I call out something problematic. I’ve received different reactions, from defensive rebuttals to blatant abuse and harassment.

      I think, in any case, taking away the thing that makes a person different, and considering how an NT person would feel, for example, is important. If this teenager wasn’t developmentally disabled, would the other team have responded in the way they did? Perhaps if the kids were younger, the answer would be yes (and I wholeheartedly agree that kids need to be taught that you can’t always win; I hate that they’re doing away with some of the competitiveness of youth sports). But at this kid’s age, I don’t think that would have happened. And let’s be honest. It boils down to this: I shouldn’t even need to say “if you took away his disability”, but I do, and you know why? Because he’s seen as not quite the same, with the same thoughts and feelings as other kids. We don’t default to human, I think, in some ways. And I know that sounds harsh, but it’s reality.

      I definitely don’t blame you for liking the video, and you know, being happy that there are people who are trying to be good and accepting is definitely a step up and it makes me happy, too. But being happy and still critical of the impact beyond just the person’s intent is important.


  2. I am so glad you and others are writing about this as it is a much needed discussion that I think for many of us who are non-disabled, non-autistic is difficult to fully understand. The learning curve is steep and full of pot holes, but without these conversations nothing can or will change. I so appreciated how you explained why this feels horrible. I completely understood. I was able to see how that would feel had something like this happened to me. Accommodation does not mean patronizing displays of so-called generosity by those who are more abled. This is not what is meant by respect. And in the end it causes tremendous confusion and wounds, some that may never fully heal. Thank you again for this.


  3. You are right, of course, about the fact that you should not have to ask the what if about his disability. And you are right about the not defaulting to human. It IS harsh, and it also is absolutely true. Xenophobia is I think the most horrible flaw in human nature. I understand its evolutionary role in self preservation out in the wild, but in our modern civilization, this rampant fear of the different has no place, and people really need to dig into themselves, question their motives, and overcome this.

    But most of all, I agree with this statement of yours: “But being happy and still critical of the impact beyond just the person’s intent is important.” People are, by and large, terrible at being on the receiving end of critique. It’s another thing we all have to get past if we are to evolve into better human beings. How will anyone ever know that something is wrong on some level, if everyone is too damn polite to ever point it out? So, please… keep pointing it out! Some people may not like it, but it *is* important, and necessary. And the best part is once heard, it is difficult, if not altogether impossible, for it to be “unheard.”

    And, by the way, I hope have a great day 🙂


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