I have a friend who has kids who are other-abled. She wrote a blog post that I think is probably important for everyone to read.
The main point is this: Even if someone is disabled in some way, you should think of it more as other-abled. These kids and adults do have weaknesses, and those weaknesses are usually the most obvious thing about them, unfortunately. We see them based, then, on those weaknesses. It's sad, but it's true. When you see someone with paralasis, you don't think "Well, I'll bet he's a great special olympics athlete", you instead tend to think "I wonder why that poor person can't walk" or wonder what happened, or whatnot.
What we neglect to realize though is that where they are weak, they are also strong. Where you see a weakness, God has given a strength. Blind people will sometimes have stronger senses of smell or hearing than the rest of us. Each person who has a weakness has a strength in another area. People aren't disabled, they are other-abled.
Then as I think of that, I can expand my thinking to everyone. Every single person. Even people who have weaknesses that cannot easily be seen. Every person has some strength and some weakness. Where they have weakness in one area, they have strength in another.
That reminds me of this:
1 Corinthians 12
English Standard Version (ESV)
12 Now concerning[a] spiritual gifts,[b] brothers,[c] I do not want you to be uninformed. 2 You know that when you were pagans you were led astray to mute idols, however you were led. 3 Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says “Jesus is accursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit.
4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5 and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; 6 and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. 7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 8 For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to anothergifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 to another the working of miracles, to anotherprophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individuallyas he wills.
One Body with Many Members
12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves[d] or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.
14 For the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15 If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? 18 But as it is,God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19 If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts,[e] yet one body.
21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 22 On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, 24 which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, 25 that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.
27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. 28 And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, thenmiracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? 31 But earnestly desire the higher gifts.
And I will show you a still more excellent way.
We are all disabled. We are all other-abled. We need to stop seeing, judging and decided on the quality or ability someone does or doesn't have based on what you see. God doesn't make all of us prophets, He doesn't make all of us healers. He doesn't make all of us hearing or seeing. He doesn't make any of us neurotypical or autistic. And then even within those categories He doesn't make any of us high and low functioning autistic. Each person who lives has their own weaknesses, even if they are hidden. Each person has their own strength, even if they too are hidden. When you talk to or about somebody, and you think they are too other-abled to understand, you are wrong. Even people who cannot talk have feelings. Even people who don't have any way of communicating can hear and feel. I've seen stories of people with severe autism who have found ways to communicate and have feelings and reactions to what people have said when they thought they couldn't hear or understand.
Be more careful about what you say to or about others. When you think that it doesn't matter because they can't hear you or understand you, you are wrong. They likely can hear and understand you, and even if they couldn't, God does. It hurts everyone to assume and judge the understanding of another. Even someone as seemingly "normal" as I am can sometimes not quite "get" what someone says, but still end up understanding it, and then wondering about it. Children are smarter, too, than we take them for, even "typical" children.
I could probably go on and on connecting the dots about different things, but I wanted to just get to the point of how we view and talk about others right in front of them because we think they are too handicapped to understand. We are so wrong about this. We are so hurtful when we do things like this. Often the person or parent involved won't want to embarrass anyone by putting us in our place, but we need to be more aware, and more sensitive. Talk to and about people as if they hear you and understand you. Never assume that you can talk about or around someone them because they won't hear or understand you. You will be surprised that we have totally underestimated people who are thinking and feeling humans, just like you. Even if they have a weakness.
I hope I made sense.