People are ignorant. The internet really hasn’t helped in regards to the casual dispersal of misinformation and snap self-diagnoses. People who actually live with these conditions and have a clear diagnosis now have to overcome the skeptics made by others who acted on prejudice, misinformation, misunderstanding or a simple lack of knowledge. How do you know? Who do you take seriously and who do you tell to take a hike?
People say things like, “Service dogs are only for blind people,” “Are you crazy?” “I’m depressed,” “Little Johnny can’t sit still for more than 5 seconds at a time, I think maybe he has ADHD,” “My mother’s cousin’s stepbrother has Aspergers- he’s a little weird, but brilliant,” or “If you just tried harder (or ate your veggies)…” and it makes things hard. How do you differentiate between the person who is just looking for attention, the one who needs be given an education in disability studies and some sensitivity training, and those who may actually be living with a condition(s) or are searching for a diagnosis or explanation?
I recently met a lady on the bus who had lost her keys. I offered to help her look for them. “That would be wonderful,” she smiled, “Early onset, you know? Sheesh!” I thought she was joking; it’s the kind of thing people say all the time, but after we talked some more, I wasn’t sure. And I was too shy to ask outright if she really did have early onset Alzheimer’s. We found the keys.