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Being responsible versus being given a responsibility (or several)

February 18, 2013

What is the difference between being responsible and having responsibilities? To give someone a responsibility does not necessarily mean that the person is now responsible. The word “response” which means “a reaction or reply” to something, is the word I think of when the words responsibility or responsible come to mind. Actually, a friend mentioned this thought to me at a dinner outing last night…we were sitting at Noodles and Company, close to where I live, and we were talking about that briefly over a scrumptious (boy I love that word!) meal of spicy Indonesian peanut saute noodles. A person may have the responsibility of raising a child, but that alone does not a responsible person make. There are countless stories in news, past and present, of young people and celebrities having children without regard to the kinds of RESPONSIBILITIES they would have to face, and when they do not face them properly, they are not RESPONSIBLE.

A responsibility is an obligation bestowed on someone, and “being responsible” is a character trait usually acquired over a certain period of time. The length of time depends of course on environmental factors such as life experience, age, education level (sometimes, not always) and other things. We may explore some of these other things in future posts. People with disabilities can certainly be responsible. That discussion deserves its own post.

Being responsible is learned behavior. NT people learn it by observation and imitating peers. So too can autistic people, but it can take much longer. First do we understand what a responsibility is? Autistic advocates definitely have responsibilities that they take on themselves. Some of us organize protests against Autism Speaks events. Others organize major events such as the ASAN annual gala. Need link to this. Include more examples)
Others give presentations at Autreat, the annual retreat by and for autistic people.

The advocates who participate in these activities have chosen to take on these responsibilities. They are not forced or coerced by others to do these activities. These are real responsibilities though, just like going to work if one has a job, going to school (in my case) or taking care of one’s children. And some autistic people have children too, but that isn’t all that relevant except it is another responsibility that some of us have.

We will have other blog posts upcoming about things related to this: specifically we have plans for a post about the damage parents/family can do to autistic people by calling them “irresponsible” for not doing certain things. If you have something to say about that, or this post, we would love to hear from you!

Collaborative, all of us (finished by Athena)

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One comment

  1. One thing: let’s clearly define “responsibility” since you ask whether the hypothetical autistic knows what it is. Based on your examples, I’m thinking something along the lines of “will personally ensure that XYZ is accomplished”.

    There was a Dennis/Menace cartoon on the point of being assigned responsibilities: Dennis complaining that he was considered old enough to eat everything put on his plate, yet not old enough to determine what got put on the plate.



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