Here I’ll answer some of my anticipated FAQs.
1) Don’t you mean Asperger’s?
No, I don’t. I was officially diagnosed in 2017 with the DSM-5 (the 5th edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) which was released in May of 2013. In this revised edition, “Asperger Syndrome” is now recognized as falling more clearly under the umbrella of Autism Spectrum Disorders. Asperger’s is Autism. So per this new criteria, my diagnosis was one of ASD. Thus, I am Autistic.
[Side note: Please don’t “correct” an Autistic person about how they identify themselves; it’s up to the individual. Many people will use Asperger’s, and that’s ok!]
Check out Amythest Schaber’s “Ask an Autistic #12: What Shouldn’t I Say to Autistic People” video. At about the 5:30 mark, they respond to the comments: “I think that you mean Aspergers.” followed by “Don’t you mean you’re a person with autism?” The whole video is great if you have time to watch it all.
2) Why do you use “Autistic person,” “Autistics,” and sometimes “Autists”? (Isn’t it “person with autism”?)
You can’t separate me from my Autism. It’s who I am! I am not a “person who suffers from/with autism” or even just a “person with autism.” Nor do I “have autism.”
I am Autistic. Period. It’s the way my brain is wired and the way I function. If I wasn’t Autistic, I would be a completely different person. I would have gravitated toward different friends, hobbies, interests, and studies. I would think, act, experience, talk, and function completely differently. I am proud of who I am, and I just happen to be an Autistic person!
Lydia Brown, intern at ASAN (Autistic Self Advocacy Network), wrote a wonderful article in which she said:
“[W]hen we say “Autistic person,” we recognize, affirm, and validate an individual’s identity as an Autistic person. We recognize the value and worth of that individual as an Autistic person — that being Autistic is not a condition absolutely irreconcilable with regarding people as inherently valuable and worth something. We affirm the individual’s potential to grow and mature, to overcome challenges and disability, and to live a meaningful life as an Autistic. Ultimately, we are accepting that the individual is different from non-Autistic people–and that that’s not a tragedy, and we are showing that we are not afraid or ashamed to recognize that difference.”
There are a ton of materials on this subject (person-first vs identity-first language) written by Autistics. It’s essential to respect every individual’s wishes on how they wish to be referred to.
And Bending the Willow’s tumblr post.
There’s lots more out there with just a quick Google search! Please listen to what actual Autistics are saying.
3) Why do you capitalize “autism” and “autistic”?
Again, I am an Autistic person and that is part of my identity. Many Autistic self-advocates choose to capitalize “Autism” and “Autistic” and note that it’s similar to the Blind and Deaf communities who generally prefer capitalized identifiers.
[image description: A picture of an interesting tree. It is bent and gnarled, twisting this way and that. The woods around it is a lush green. In the distance, a red bridge can just barely be seen.]