Jason's View

My Disability Gives Me Superpowers: How to Train Your Disability

13 Jan 2016 by Jason Harris
Image: 123rf.com

Like a good percentage of millennials I am into superheroes. Partly because I am awesomely nerdy in the popular sense, but also educationally as well. Like any characters we really like, we have some way of identifying with them. I feel that I identify with superheroes in multiple ways.

When I think of superheroes, the first one I think of is Batman. One of the reasons I identify with him is the grief over my family. Now my parents and sister are still alive, unlike Batman’s. But what I mean is that I know I caused grief in my family. I know I made things harder for them. I felt responsible for some of the strife in my family. This would recede when I learned I had my own skills and that I had to learn how to control them.

One of the scenes that reminds me of my youth is the scene in Man of Steel when a young Clark Kent is realizing he has powers. Instead of this discovery being an amazing thing, is something that overstimulates him and he is unable to control the powers. To me that is very much like getting overloaded. You notice so much that you are unable to get a bearing on your surroundings. Much like most people would in that situation, young Clark can’t cope.

Like anyone with unique abilities whether it be a superhero or a person with a so-called disability, it takes time to first understand, then train your powers. For me it was important for me to understand what I could and could not do. If there was something I could not do, how could I adapt to make sure I could do it?

Like anyone with unique abilities whether it be a superhero or a person with a so-called disability, it takes time to first understand, then train your powers.

We see this with all types of people—the ability to learn from the situation they are in to do something better. Sometimes we call it innovation, or sometimes we see it as an eccentricity, a person being different in a way that breaks society’s rules. It also takes the right type of motivation when you are trying to understand how to get the best out of your abilities. This means you need encouragement, not someone trying to fix you.

So what are my “super powers”? First, resilience. Like most people with some type of “disadvantage,” it takes the ability to fall and get back up, like in the Netflix series Daredevil. Throughout the series, Daredevil gets beat up, but he keeps coming back stronger than the last time. The same is true for me and other people with some type of hardship. Whether it is cancer or learning to cope with a learning disability, you keep getting back up.

So what are my “super powers”? First, resilience.

Also, what seemed like a disadvantage—my likelihood of taking in too much information since I am on the autism spectrum—can actually allow me to notice more of what is going on around me, and connect the dots of ideas, if I am able to use my energy and focus on the work.

Ultimately, we all have things we struggle with and we all have strengths. We must be given an opportunity to show our strengths and not focus on what we cannot do. Every superhero has a weakness, but that is not what makes them super.


Jason Harris

Founder of Jason’s Connection – an online resource for those with disabilities, mental health, aging and other needs. Jason was awarded an M.S. in Cultural Foundations of Education and Advanced Certificate in Disability Studies from Syracuse University.  Jason is also a Project Coordinator and Research Associate at the Burton Blatt Institute, an international think tank for Disability Rights and Human Justice at Syracuse University.  He regularly contributes to the blog in his own series called Jason’s View and travels the country consulting and speaking about disability issues and rights. To read more from Jason Harris, read Jason's View