Home » Autism » Diffability


Nope, that isn’t a typo. It’s a new word we made up this weekend. It’s our word.

We flew up to Northern California over the weekend to go to my niece’s graduation party. Flying is almost always an experience with Little Man along. When you fly a certain airline, without assigned seating, a whole new layer is added. On top of that, I was flying with all three kids, but no other adult. The last time we flew this airline, Spouse was with us, so when they told us only Little Man and I could pre-board, it wasn’t a big deal. I knew he had my back and would be with Big Man and the Princess. I was a little stressed out they would tell me we would all have to wait for our boarding group, or Big Man and P would have to board by themselves. Bring on the anxiety. I figured I would just ask if we could all pre-board together, and see what happened. Everyone was amazing, and the answer going and coming home was a resounding, “Yes! Of course!” Amen.

Bring on the Diffability. If you have a child with autism, and you ask to pre-board, you are given a card which states, “Pre-board by reason of disability.” I held the boarding passes on our way out, so Little Man didn’t see it. I saw it though. I sent a text to my sister about it right when they gave it to me and I saw that word. It was a bit of a knife in the heart. I don’t think of him as “disabled.” I know his autism is considered a disability, I just don’t normally see that word applied to him, even though I’m aware it is, by definition. On the way home, I did give him his boarding pass, not even thinking about that statement on the card.

My cookie is a smart cookie. Of course he saw it. I saw him look at it, then go silent for a minute. Then, “Mom, I don’t really like that word. I’m not un-able, I’m just different. I don’t think of myself as disabled.” Well, son, I don’ think of  you as disabled either. I wish there were a better word. Maybe someday there will be. I said to him, he’s Diff-abled….differently-abled. He has a diffability. That is much easier to swallow than “Disability.”

We know that vocabulary changes. Words which used to be accepted are now considered derogatory. What’s acceptable now wasn’t even thought of then.  Perceptions change. He’s autistic,  yes, but disabled? Nah. He’s Diffabled. That’s our story and we’re stickin to it.

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