Since this is autism awareness month I think we should finally settle the debate.
Autistics don’t think they are suffering from a disease.
They don’t care about having autism as a comorbid condition in medical records unless it impedes function so much that it needs to be mentioned.
They want the world to know that they aren’t “children with autism” but rather “autistic children”.
That’s strange, right? All the ethics in medicine ask us to use person-first language and here autistics want to create another uproar.
We have come so far in how we view disability. However, autism sometimes isn’t a disability in the true sense of the word. Autistics are expected to function in a world not really made for them and are expected to navigate it successfully. This is a huge ask and we don’t cut them enough slack for accomplishing a version of it everyday.
But autistics have spoken up finally. They want to be called autistic. They want to be known by their differences. In a world where people are trying to blend in, they want to stand out. They don’t want benevolence. They want acknowledgement.
I won’t lie because I like to be honest about my love-hate relationship with autism but I didn’t like people referring to my girl as autistic. It was a gut punch. But slowly with time I realized that she is truly an autistic. That’s her identity. Who am I to take it away from her?
Calling them autistic also takes away the stigma. Then we openly accept that there are differences in development and they don’t make anyone less or more. They’re just differences. And some of these differences for the more verbal and well-integrated autistics are merely semantics.
So I call my girl autistic now. Proudly and knowing that her life is defined by autism because she struggles so much. But her life is also defined by some mainstream things that we all enjoy like food, playground, having fun and learning everyday. Her joy isn’t autistic or typical. It is her own. Just like mine is. Autism defines her and she defines her autism. Just like I define my life and my life defines me.