Spoon Theory as a Deficit Model

Thanks to Gregg Beratan on Twitter for this idea.

Spoon Theory is useful to many people as a measure of energy and fatigue. It is difficult to wrap your head around what chronic pain, fatigue, and illness are actually like, and I say this as someone who has them. We all tend to normalize our experiences and we think that everyone around us must feel like we do– and yet other people are somehow accomplishing more. So spoon theory is helpful in validating our fatigue and providing the phrase “out of spoons”.

Yet a limitation of this theory is that it’s a deficit model: It assumes that something is wrong with us, rather than something being wrong with society.

Instead of saying “I’m out of spoons,” try saying “The world needs to give me more time to rest” or “Accommodations for my fatigue will help me accomplish this task.”

The deficit model is the dominant narrative of illness. And it can be seductive: it feels like there is something wrong with me. But the social model of disability states that it is society that disables us– that it is moral and normal to need more time and more support and more rest.

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