Updated: Nov 14, 2020
Health professionals consistently and constantly try to preach to us and to correct us when we state that we are autistic. They would have us say ‘person with autism’. This is because they view autism as an illness and a disease. From their perspective this is an accurate description and should be adhered to. But they are not us, and because of that they get it wrong. It carries a message of tragedy and misery to the parents that are told of their child’s diagnosis. It carries the message to the young autistic person, that they are forever flawed and carries the stigma that they will always be outcast from the rest of society. It denies us the expression of our identity. It denies us our basic rights to define ourselves. This is an example of an outdated idea that may have been well intentioned years ago, but needs to be exorcised from all narratives in the present day. The impact stemming from this on the mental health of both autistics and their family members can be immense. This is why, we the autistic members of society constantly have to tell the professionals that we reject their label and to step back and consider the harm that they are actually doing. Autism is not just a form of disability or a collection of traits and social flaws. It is a unique difference and a totally separate identity. We all share things like intense interests or revel in the freedom of stimming. We will nod with wry appreciation at memes that illustrate our shared struggles with executive functioning or self expression. Rather than a collection of disabilities, it is a connection that all autistic people share. Because we share the instincts to be different and behave differently to the rest of society does not make those characteristics flawed or any less valid. They are our forms of self-expression and self-regulation, and we are ultimately validated by them. So please listen and respect our wishes, as with any group, gender, religion or race. We ask the right to define ourselves and to use identity-first language. We are Autistic! Always have been and always will be.