Posts Tagged ‘presumption of competence


Ableist versus Assumption of Competence

Ableist versus Assumption of Competence.

I am going to share, what I think, are two competing ideas that have me so confuzzled. I am hoping my friends in the autism community can help explain things to me, please.

First, the definition of Competence:

This is from one blog post about it: “If you assume competence, you are giving a person the opportunity to succeed.  Does it mean that he or she will always achieve the desired success?  Not necessarily.  But isn’t it more damaging to not provide him or her with the opportunity at all? “

This is another definition: “The principle of “presuming competence,” is simply to act as Anne Sullivan did.  Assume that a child has intellectual ability, provide opportunities to be exposed to learning, assume the child wants to learn and assert him or herself in the world. To not presume competence is to assume that some individuals cannot learn, develop, or participate in the world.  Presuming competence is nothing less than a Hippocratic oath for educators. It is a framework that says, approach each child as wanting to be fully included, wanting acceptance and appreciation, wanting to learn, wanting to be heard, wanting to contribute.  By presuming competence, educators place the burden on themselves to come up with ever more creative, innovative ways for individuals to learn.  The question is no longer who can be included or who can learn, but how can we achieve inclusive education.  We begin by presuming competence.” from this about Helen Keller’s teacher, Anne Sullivan.

And now.. ableism.

From “discrimination in favor of able-bodied people.”

And another: “Ableism is a form of discrimination or prejudice against individuals with physical, mental, or developmental disabilities that is characterized by the belief that these individuals need to be fixed or cannot function as full members of society (Castañeda & Peters, 2000). As a result of these assumptions, individuals with disabilities are commonly viewed as being abnormal rather than as members of a distinct minority community (Olkin & Pledger, 2003; Reid & Knight, 2006). Because disability status has been viewed as a defect rather than a dimension of difference, disability has not been widely recognized as a multicultural concern by the general public as well as by counselor educators and practitioners.” quoted from here: Laura Smith, Pamela F. Foley, and Michael P. Chaney, “Addressing Classism, Ableism, and Heterosexism in Counselor Education”, Journal of Counseling & Development, Summer 2008, Volume 86, pp 303-309.

Okay, so ‘splain to me how my sharing an article (link to article) to someone who wanted to know WHY people were refusing to be her friend, WHY people would “throw her away”, etc. is ableist? I wrote a comment on the article posted on my timeline that stated:

(Names removed): take this with the intent I mean and not wrong. EVERYONE has traits that can annoy others or drive others away. Reading this, I recognized myself and you two on some of these things (none of us lack empathy, tho). So I thought y’all could benefit from the reading as well.”

Benefit from reading = understanding the WHY.

How am I being ableist by sharing this article with friends who have specifically mentioned this being a problem and wanting to change it?

You see.. here’s my dilemma. If you presume someone CAN control their behavior (or learn how to), you are using the presumption of competence. However, if you do presume competence, you’re an ableist. Why? I don’t get it. Please, someone help me.


These are the types of things I talk about

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