One of the greatest crimes abled society commits against disabled people is robbing us of our ability to dream, especially as children. Abled society is obsessed with telling us what we can’t do, insisting that it’s somehow their “moral duty” to protect us from disappointment.
But aiming high and failing are part of what it means to dream, to have goals and aspirations, to strive, to have a fulfilling life.
We Can’t Live if We Can’t Dream
I’ve written about my own experience in A Future I Can’t See. I was never barred from my dreams directly due to being neurodivergent, on account of being undiagnosed, but I was also never exposed to enough possibilities or taught how to engage with the future, leaving me aimless for nearly a decade.
Neurodivergent people are often said to have a “deficiency” in the ability to imagine outcomes and therefore plot courses to those outcomes as part of Executive Functioning difficulties. But isn’t it possible that a large part of that is lack of practice and encouragement?
No matter the natural or early states of our brains, Executive Functioning skills can be learned, they are processes we can build support and external systems for. Nothing is off limits purely due to our neurodivergence.
The only thing that can result from being told repeatedly that certain dreams and life goals are beyond our reach is learned helplessness and loss of hope. Why dream if it’s off limits? Why even try to imagine the outcome if we’re destined to fail? These are the lessons society teaches kids by discouraging them in a misguided attempt to “protect them from disappointment.”
Neurodivergent people are also said to have poor “flexibility” or the ability to adapt to new situations. But in order to handle changes in our environment, a strong sense of identity is required. Why? Because identity is what defines how we respond to new information or circumstances; identity defines our behavior. And according to Dr. Benjamin Hardy, PhD and the psychological concept of “prospection” our identity is largely shaped by how we view our future selves. Isn’t it possible then, that a major reason we struggle with new situations is because we’re unable to craft a solid identity? because we cannot imagine the kind of person we’ll be in the future? because we’re constantly told we have no future to speak of?
It’s not enough to simply allow children to dream. Children have such limited knowledge of the world and the possibilities within it. As adults we have a responsibility to help kids dream and discover the vastness of the world, so that they may find themselves within it.