Autisitic…or Person With Autism?

Who is insisting on that distinction and why?

PC terminology is a big deal these days.  Many terms can inadvertently cause offence it seems. It’s not necessarily a bad thing – people are finally starting to accept that using certain terms that have previously been acceptable jargon can be triggering to the minority group they are describing. Most people are decent enough to decide that they don’t want to causes unnecessary distress.

Certain people are becoming more insistent that people with a disability are addressed differently that what was previously accepted. For example, those of us on the spectrum are no longer autistic. We are people with autism.

When I say certain people, what I mean are parents of people with autism (yes, I’m prepared to play along.)  I have never head anyone on the spectrum describe themselves this way, and I know quite a few.

I have a lot of gripes with how parents talk about their children on the spectrum. For example, if I hear or read anyone describe aspergers as a “not a disability but a wonderful ability” ONE MORE TIME I’LL…probably write a whole blog post explaining why I find that distasteful.

Ahem.  Where was I?

Oh yeah, PC autism talk.

I won’t be too quick to dismiss this latest jargon trend emerging amongst the mummy bloggers, but I’m still wrestling with whether I’m prepared to hop on the band wagon.

I’m not easily outraged. Sure I don’t understand social cues on an interpersonal level, but I’ve spent a lot of time people watching to try understand them better. I like to think that as a result, I’ve developed a decent understanding of people’s motivations in a broader sense.

Intent is very important to me. I’m not easily outraged by sketchy terminology because that kind of reaction best reserved for those who are being intentionally dismissive or derogatory.  Being overly sensitive about terminology regardless of intention is really quite precious.

Do you really think that those describing people on the spectrum as autistic are intending to be derogatory? Really?

The reason why hate terms are being phased out is because they existed to isolate and discriminate the people they are used against.  The word autism simply doesn’t have those connotations for me.  It’s in a completely different category to other words that have been thrown around to describe the socially challenged.  These are words that have been rightfully stigmatised.

For example.  Do you think that calling someone autistic is on par with calling them a retard?

UGH!  What a horrible word that is.  That’s triggering. That’s a word that caused me serious distress, and causes me to cringe whenever I hear it. No-one who uses that word is interested in being understanding, insightful, tolerant. Thankfully, these days it’s largely recognised as a hate term, and using it is a grave social faux pas.

You might argue that as a person with aspergers as opposed to high functioning autism, I have no more right to assume the thoughts of people with autism on the matter than the family members observing from the outside, but with the elimination of aspergers from the DSM V we’ve all been lumped in together. Now, all of us on the spectrum are people with autism. I think of myself as a person with autism..

Am I offended by being described as autistic? No. I don’t appreciate anyone jumping down my throat for using the term though I am open to being educated. I get that insensitive terminology wouldn’t just be offensive to people with autism, it hurts everyone close to them

Describing someone as autistic can be seen as defining someone with their condition.  And some people on the spectrum are actually in favour of that.  If a person with cancer beats their cancer, or a person with epilepsy stops having seizures, they, they personality and thought processes which define that, are not changed.  Not so with the person with autism.  Remove the aspergers and I’d be looking at the world in an entirely different way.

I still don’t consider myself totally defined by aspergers, but when people find out that I have it, suddenly everything I do is an ‘aspergers thing.’ And it irks me beyond belief.  But I know that the problem is their ignorance, not me.

Maybe, just maybe, the reason that I feel apathy towards that term ‘people with autism’ is that I feel secure in my diversity as a person. I know I’m more than just a diagnosis.  Maybe the reason that others on the spectrum want to be referred to as autistic is because they’ve also come to terms with their autism as just one part, albeit a significant one, of a colourful personality

Maybe, just maybe, the reason that parents of people on the spectrum are bothered by the terminology masks a fear of a life defined by limits rather than potential.  That the diagnosis will end up defining a life time of social panic, struggles to stay in gainful employment and maintain relationships. At the more severe end of the spectrum it defines carers fatigue and an inability to live independently.

Austism parenting can be challenging and heartbreaking at its worst. I realise that word throws your child’s limitations in your face, and focussing on limitations isn’t helping anyone get the most out of life.

While you can refer to me as autistic all you want, I don’t want to be that person who throws your child’s limits in your face. That’s rather rude.

Prejudiced people regrettably tend to be more vocal but I’ve found that most people do want to be supportive and are happy to be educated. So If they accidently cause offense, be patient. Be kind. Chances are, that’s the courtesy they are more than willing to give you.

I’m still not a hard core advocate of the terminology but I don’t want to hurt anyone when they’re just trying to be as positive about life as possible.

I may be blunt, I may be critical, but I implore you all to consider my intent.

My intend is to be your ally. To be your friend.

After all, that’s what people advocating for a change in terminology are trying to be for me and others like me.

Peace, yo.