To be honest, my classmate's use of "severely disabled" to describe her sister kind of pisses me off. It reminds me of my feelings about certain autism rhetoric--about autism being The Worst Disability and nonverbal ASD people being "locked inside." I mean, I've been spending time with kids who have multiple disabilities (well in some cases I wonder if it's "they can't talk because of physical disability and we're not creative enough to figure out AAC, so we're going to diagnose them with intellectual disability"--but whatever). Scenes in the story involve my classmate's sister using language communicatively, kicking my classmate, and wandering off and getting lost. Joe can't do any of those things. He can make noises to get people's attention, and he can move around in his wheelchair or trainer--but he usually doesn't, because people often ignore his wishes no matter how clearly he expresses them. Kids like Joe are not troublesome to take care of like kids with ASD can be, because no matter how frustrated Joe gets, he can't kick anyone.
What a horrible way to use the word "severe."
Maybe I'm being nitpicky, because I can see that a possible response is, "Well, your classmate's sister has severe ASD, while Joe is severely physically disabled--the spectrums are different, so it's still okay to call them both severe--just like a severely dyslexic person is much less impaired than A. or Joe."
Okay but she used the term "severely disabled" not "severely autistic." So...wouldn't that mean she's on the severe end of all disabilities?
I don't know. Still nitpicking, I guess.
I'm not trying to set up some sort of "which disability is worse" contest. I mean, I don't know whether Joe is going around thinking, "man, I have the worst life." Probably not. He's a child. There are things going on he is interested in. Sometimes he gets to go outside, sometimes he gets to listen to music.
But I sometimes have a sense that he has mostly given up trying to express himself, and that horrifies me. When I saw my classmate call her sister "severely disabled," I was so offended it surprised me. I felt insulted on Joe's behalf. Which is maybe really weird.
In terms of me: I'm mildly ASD and mildly disabled--but I do sometimes feel pressured to say that I'm not even either of those things at all. And I think that's because I'm not troublesome. I don't do a bunch of obviously odd things. There are just a bunch of tasks most people are expected to do that are extremely difficult and tiring for me and sometimes I feel like I'm falling apart. Sometimes I feel like if I was more obviously odd, it would be easier for me to ask for help.
Would that make me more severely disabled?