More on Self-Identification – Religion and Politics

In a previous article (, I spent time talking about the concept of “self-identification” and the problems with it. As I argued in that article, as a rule external identification is preferable to self-identification, though it is not nearly always even close to perfect.

Looking back, one thing I do not appear to have discussed is the concept of handicap or disability. This blog entry will “tie together” the two, though at some point, I probably ought to write an article particularly on disability (perhaps more than one).

In the previously cited article, I made a point of saying that, just because someone self-identifies as a particular thing, is not a sign that they are that as which they identify. Put simply, it neither makes you a particular thing or puts you in a particular state to self-identify as that thing or being in that state, nor does it make you not that thing. So self-identification is not particularly useful for much of any purpose. Adding to that idea, as a rule, unless others are willing to qualify or classify your being in some way, you may or may not be something, but at the very least others are unwilling to accept that fact.

Does that make those refusing so to do correct? Not by necessity. Should it probably prompt you to question your identification? Probably so.

All that being said though, what I wanted to discuss in this article, is the idea of self-identifying as handicapped or disabled as opposed to being identified as disabled or handicapped.

When my son Garrett was born, it didn’t in any particular wise, seem that he was much different from any other baby.

In the course of time, it became obvious that he was different, but even then it was far from clear what was causal to those differences.

Garrett would go through periods of extreme fussiness, he had issues with what we fed him to the degree that we spent a good deal of time finding something he could eat. We finally settled on a formula that seemed to work for him, but not without a lot of searching.

In the course of time, he seemed to “normalize” in many regards. He started eating food, and seemed amenable to a variety of different things. He cooed and “talked.” In short, he began to do many of the things a baby his age would have been expected to do.

As he got older though, things changed. Around eighteen months of age, he began to “revert” in terms of lingual gains. At some point along the way, he became dietarily extremely “picky.”

He went from “casting google-eyes at the ladies,” to treating every he didn’t know as “furniture.” That is to say, he would all but act as if they were not there.

To sum up, Garrett changed, and in some pretty obvious ways.

I had suspected for some time, that there was something going on that we had not initially accounted as being true, but it wasn’t until later on that I (and others) began to get clarity with regard to what that might be.

Sooner or later, I and others, came to the conclusion that Garrett was Autistic. Even so, we continued to deal with him, not so much as a “normal child,” as in ways we (and particularly I) saw were necessary in order to help him to achieve the best possible outcomes.

At my wife’s suggestion and prompting, we took him to see first representatives from the local school district, then someone who was able to clinically diagnose his Autism.

The first group started “preemptive therapy” of various types, in order to work to get him ready to deal with the rest of the world, and most particularly, with attending school.

The second group decided that Garrett was indeed moderately Autistic (basically in the middle of the Autism spectrum). This made it so we were actually aware what we were dealing with from a clinical perspective.

Something that I seem to find myself saying a lot of the time is, “You may be wondering how this relates to the ‘meat of’ this article.” Allow me to elaborate.

Though Garrett is not good enough communicating at this point to answer one way or another, I’m pretty sure if you asked him, “Garrett, are you Autistic?” He would either answer, “No.” Or “What’s that?” If he were sufficiently capable so to do.

This also applies to questions about him being handicapped or disabled. At no time, and in no way, does my son count himself handicapped or disabled. I much doubt he even thinks about the many ways in which he’s different from other children.

At times, he longs to “belong,” but he does that in the same way as any other kid looking for friends and acquaintances. At other times, and with many people, frankly, he just wants to be left alone to do what he wants to do.

He relates to me in much the same way. Sometimes he wants to be with daddy and sometimes he wants daddy let him roam about with as much independence as I am able to give him—probably more, in fact.

The point is, Garrett could not be said to “self-identify” as Autistic or handicapped or disabled. He doesn’t know these concepts, and I doubt much he would care about them if he did.

To be fair, my boy’s “manifestations of difference” are not at all obvious to most folks (even adults) who encounter him. People with moderately (and some with mildly) Autistic kids, recognize the condition—as I generally do with their children. Others though, typically have no idea. I have even had people who you would think should know (like people who deal with “special needs children”), who were blissfully ignorant until told.

I’m not going to say a kid or adult missing a leg or unable to hear or speak has no business “self-identifying” as having a handicap or disability. I am  going to say that I see a great many people who claim to be handicapped or disabled who often have little or nothing more than their own word to demonstrate that “fact.”

There’s an old idea I want to “float” again here, “You have no idea what those around you are going through.” That would seem to be saying simply be kind to those around you, but I would like to add a little more. There are people out there you would never guess are dealing with trials and difficulties, as they just move through them—difficult though they may be—as if nothing was occurring.

The point? Just because those around you don’t identify themselves as having some condition that makes life more difficult possibly than you can even imagine, doesn’t mean they don’t have such a condition. And I wouldn’t be surprised to hear the number of such folks was larger than would be imagined by and large.

Okay, about time to get on to other things. Here’s hoping your time is good, and thanks for reading.

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