Day Seven: Autism Awareness Blogathon
It’s often said that autistic people are just ‘wired differently’. There’s an evolving language that goes with that idea. This has mostly come about because more and more autistics are able to represent and advocate for themselves. They are choosing the terms they want to use to identify themselves as individuals, as a community.
A by-product of this is that there are new terms to describe those of us who don’t have autism. Get ready folks – it’s your turn to live with a label. Non-autistics are neurotypical or NT for short.
I’m still working out my own understanding of some of this language and where I stand on the ‘person first’ language politics. I’m hoping that by the end of this post, I’ll have a clearer idea about the language of autism.
The neurodiversity movement developed in the late 90’s as online communication became more accessible and people with shared interests were able to come together from around the world. These days that voice is stronger and louder than ever.
The concept of neurodiversity is that the different wiring is simply a part of the breadth of what it means to be human. The same as racial, gender, cultural and other differences are. Neurodiversity presumes & promotes tolerance and respect for these differences. No cures thanks. We like who we are.
Sounds fairly simple except that, of course there are layers and complexities. Autism is a broad term that covers everyone from the brilliant and articulate Aspergian to the non-verbal, hypersensitive, socially distant perseverating stimmer and everyone in between. That’s why they say it’s a spectrum.
For me, the complexity lies in the ability to communicate. Options are more open for those who are able to say what they do and don’t want and who are able to find a place in the world that is meaningful to them. There are fewer options for those who require constant care and supervision, who are unable to keep themselves safe, who are bullied, ostracised or worse, who must ‘behaviour’ their communication, who can’t answer the question ‘would you like to be a fluent communicator?’ Knowing how the ability to communicate eases your way in the world and as a mother I can’t help but think that they would. So neurodiversity is fine if you have the capacity to understand and express that it is.
I certainly respect the rights of others to be just who they are. If you want me to call you autistic and not ‘a person with autism’, I can do that. I can even accept another label for my little boy. Just add it to the list. It doesn’t change who he is. Change and adaptation is relatively easy for me. I’ve always appreciated difference and try (for someone from a white, first world life experience) to be open to new ideas and perspectives.
As my boy is becoming better able to express himself, his frustrations are lessening and he is able to manage himself a bit better. He’s happier because of this and I’ll continue to do my utmost to help him to be happy, to enjoy his life and to reach his potential. Just as I do for all the kids in my life – whatever their neurostatus may be.
So I think I’ve worked out how I feel about all this neuro talk. I value the right for people to self-identify under a name. But in the end, I don’t actually care about the label. I just care about the person.