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From the Archives: Doctors Hiding Diagnoses? This is a Thing?

There’s one way to easily annoy a lot of Disabled people: infantilize us.

The pro-Neurodiversity blogosphere has taken to decrying bits of this article which talks about how hard it is to diagnose women and girls and anyway.  We fully agree with that, because we know we’re social chameleons, and is it EXHAUSTING.  But there was a “throwaway” comment and that’s the one that we’re fighting about.  The gist of it is that if we’re successful at navigating society, then maybe we shouldn’t be diagnosed as Autistic.  Here’s the most popular example right now:

In other words, we should be denied “medical access” to our “people” because we’re “passing” for neurotypicals.  Let that sink in.  Now, let’s change it up.  A Deaf person goes in for a diagnosis and is never told he is Deaf so his Deafness is irrelevant and might hurt his feelings if he knew.  After all, he’s successful at navigating in a society not made for him.  Or worse: a Black person is denied that she is Black because she does just fine in the dominant, white society and to be told she is Black might make her feel sad.

This is ridiculous, right?

Earlier, I posted how diagnosis should be a choice and I believe that still, however, it is probably good to unpack a few things here.

Medical Model vs. Social Model of Disability

First, remember that I blogged earlier about the Medical Model vs. the Social Model of Disability.  For those who want a quick refresher, the Medical Model is the model that says that Disability is a “divergence” from “normalcy” and thereby it must be fixed and/or cured.  This is the model under which doctors and psychologists see disability and it underlies special education programs because the reason such programs exist is because the Disabled student can’t do what the rest of the class does and must be supported to do those things; there is never really a question about whether those things are necessary or appropriate.  The Social Model says that the Disabled are a community, like a race or a religion, where we have our own norms and traditions.  Under this model, we are “Disabled” not because we’re broken, but because mainstream society presented a barrier because it didn’t think about us and our alternative views of the world.  We therefore don’t need “fixing,” but we think you ought to keep us in mind when you’re constructing buildings, say, or designing educational programs.  In other words, build ramps and make elevators easy to find, or understand that some people actually struggle so much with group work that they will either need special assistance (assuming group work is for this particular assignment actually essential) or the choice to work alone must be validated (because you’re not doing group work for anything other than a belief that it makes the work easier for you to grade or it’s out of kindness to the students because you made this a particularly large project).  Whenever we’re forced to do things “just because everyone else is,” that’s ableism and THAT is what makes us Disabled, not a “medical diagnosis.”

Who Decides?

So I still maintain that we don’t NEED doctors and psychologists validating our very existence through diagnosis.  After all, if we don’t need accommodations (we do have to live in the real world where some people will be meanies unless forced, by law, to consider us), we don’t NEED a “stamp of approval” from any medical community.  After all, they are the ones who perceive us as “broken” when we are, in fact, designed the way the Creator made us.  However, even under the Medical Model, hiding a diagnosis for a person’s “own good” flies in the face of informed consent.

[Image: A white doctor in a medical coat with a shirt and tie underneath looks condescendingly at the camera. He is older, with white hair and a receding hair line, glasses, and a beard that could make him look like Santa Claus, but nope…]
Let me say this clearly: if you are a psychologist or a doctor hiding a diagnosis from a patient because you believe you will hurt the patient more by “revealing” this diagnosis to him or her…you are a bad doctor or psychologist.  I can say this from outside your profession because the general public knows about “first do no harm.”  It is harmful to a person to leave out diagnoses because you think you can help someone by so doing.  We call this infantilism, and that is never okay.

But that doesn’t mean that self-diagnosers are wrong for not getting a diagnosis.

I’d like to believe that someday, the Disabled will get the psychological and medical care they deserve.  That somehow, some way, a doctor won’t pin all of what’s wrong with someone on their Disability.  As in, I broke my wrist and somehow that’s because I’m Deaf.  But that’s something that is a very real problem in the world we live in now.

This is why some of us are suspicious of the medical community and why doctors and other medical personnel who understand more about the Social Model of Disability are our friends.

In the end, if we ask for a diagnosis and we meet the criteria for the diagnosis, we should be told and given that diagnosis.  This shouldn’t be rocket science, but given the experience the Disabled often have in the medical community, it isn’t surprising.  Doctors, psychologists: DO BETTER.


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