We Âûtistics seem to bang on about language a lot. We talk about lofty ideals like identiy, acceptance, neurodiversity and the like. They are terms that need to be unpacked to be properly understood.
To make things more complicated there are politics that go with it. I’ve banged on about Identity first language a few times on this blog myself here and here and even here. It really is important. I’d like to take a few minutes to try and unpack that a bit more.
Let’s take a step back to the idea of awareness. Awareness is great but it doesn’t mean approval or acceptance. I am aware that there a speed limits on the road, however, that has no real impact of me actually accepting that they apply to me, or indeed, if they are a good and appropriate thing.
Bringing it a little closer to home, there are parents and caregivers, even so-called doctors, who are well aware of Âûtism, yet they inflict treatments such as CDMMS, Chelation, GcMaf and Stem Cell therapy on their children, and adults. That is hardly acceptance.
There are therapists that are well aware of autism, and even, so they say, aware that Âûtism is neurological difference, yet, ABA is still their treatment of choice, a treatment which has the prime goal of making the Âûtistic indiscernible from the rest of their peers. To appear neurotypical or Allistic. This is hardly acceptance.
The very idea of acceptance is one that says, you know what, you’re okay as you are. It doesn’t matter that you’re different to me, that you think different, talk different, or indeed communicate via alternative methods, it doesn’t matter that you move differently, that you experience the sensory world differently. It doesn’t matter about any of those things because you are a human person just like me, you are a human person and I am pleased to acknowledge you as that with no footnotes, no addendum, no appendices. We both just are. Yes Just human people, walking through this life together, each with our hopes, dreams, challenges, successes and false starts.
What does this actually have to do with language and identity and language? Well glad you asked actually. If we are unable to accept the preferred language of something then it most likely means we do not accept the identity itself. If someone is unwilling to accept the identity first language of Âûtistic and Neurodivevergence, then, in my view, there is a lack of acceptance of that identity.
If there is a lack of acceptance of that identity then it stands to reason that there is a lack of acceptance of that reality is a simple variance in the giant tapestry of human existence. To not accept that identity says, in fact, no Âûtism is not just a difference in neurology it is something bad, something sick, something diseased, something disordered. It says in fact, you are less or you have something that is part of you that is less.
When language such as “with Autism” or “has Autism” is insisted on it says, I don’t accept that as a fundamental part of who you are, I don’t accept that this is intricately interwoven into all parts of your being and all parts of your negotiation of this thing called life.
The Beatles said it well. Let it Be. Yes Let it Be. Oh that person is ADD, great Let it Be, oh look over there a PoC, great Let it Be. There is an Âûtistic Person, great Let it Be.
It really is a better way to go, surely. Let it Be. But sadly this does not seem to be the rhetoric we are seeing and hearing constantly in the media. We see instead stories of autism that are predominantly about disaster, epidemic, struggle and shame. We see stories of the terrible lives it must be for parents of Âûtistic kids. We see even when an article does a write up of Autistic pride, still there is paragraphs inserted to continue the disaster rhetoric:
“I would love my kids to be functioning enough to say, ‘I don’t need to be changed,’ ” said Kim Stagliano, the mother of three autistic girls and a prominent advocate of the widely discredited idea that childhood vaccines contribute to autism. Stagliano’s daughters are so impaired that she must bathe them and “tend to their monthly feminine needs.”
Neurodiversity is appealing, she said, because “it’s a more palatable way to look at a diagnosis that scares the living life out of anyone who sees it. They want to think that sound in the night is a branch against the window, not a robber. But autism is that robber.” Read the whole article on The Washington Post.
As I said even here “autism is that robber”. Not only that but yet more oxygen and exposure to the well and truly discredited and discounted myth of vaccines causing autism, or vaccines linked to autism. That’s awareness not acceptance, and it is offensive.
Yes that’s right simple autism awareness is OFFENSIVE.
We’ve had awareness, we’ve had it up to the neck. It’s acceptance. It’s inclusion, it’s being allowed to be who we are and take up our place as fully included members of society, accepted and celebrated for the greatness we bring.
Let us be. Just let us be.
It starts with language. We’ve seen it before. We’ve seen it happen before our very eyes with the gay rights movement. Language of sickness and disorder discarded and acceptance as part of society followed. Not without struggle of course, but imagine the uproar now if a mainstream media channel characterised homosexual orientation as a disease a sickness or a disorder.
Just let us be.
It starts with language.
I am Âûtistic. I am not “with autism” I don’t have ASD. I am Âûtistic.