Thursday, October 5, 2017
What’s in a Name?
I don’t completely know why, but when people state that someone is “autistic”. It mildly annoys me.
I feel that word immediately makes the listener think it’s all encompassing.
“She is deaf.” - You immediately think that only said person’s hearing is impacted and all other facilities remain “normal” for the person.
“He is blind.” - Again, you only think of the eyes.
“He is autistic.”
I believe the listener or reader may assume the person with Autism has below “normal” capabilities in every category and that Autism is a whole, encompassing problem.
I admit assuming this myself.
Years ago I walked in a charity fundraiser. It was required in my job that you have to do a certain amount of community service. The local “Walk for Autism Awareness” just happened to be nearby and on a weekend I was free. I didn't think much past that.
While at the walk I read the signs and t-shirts and it finally sunk in that this was raising money for children with Autism. I’ll never forget what I thought back then:
Those poor parents.
These kids are violent and out of control.
These are the kids that wear helmets because they self harm.
These kids’ future will be incredibly limited.
These kids are probably, or will end up in an institution.
Yep. That was my thought process. Hell, I was even a bit nervous. I knew nothing about Autism other than the stereotypical description. I was even mildly on edge that one of the kids at the walk may hurt me. It’s true.
Where did that one quote come from? “People fear what they don’t understand”. That explains me exactly at that time.
I don’t want people to hear “He’s autistic” and base their view of my child on that one word. I freely admit I have become quite a bit defensive, so when speaking to someone that doesn’t know us or anyone with Autism, I choose one of these routes:
I tell person I have a son.
Immediately after I show a picture on phone of how beautiful and happy he is.
He looks “normal” to the other person.
Then I mention he has Autism.
It’s one thing, not everything.
Yes, my son has Autism (then immediately said), “but he’s great and doing really well in school and really smart and has a huge vocabulary and he types words well above other kids his age!”.
It’s one quickly-spoken run on sentence meant to stop the stereotypical thought before it starts.
So there I am, too worried the A-Word will diminish a person’s perception of my child or that the person will then pity me. I’ve gotten a lot of that too. I say he has Autism and I get a sad look in return, or they assume I’m some sort of super-mom because I’m still standing, or they even reply with “I’m so sorry”.
Please don’t pity me. I know you mean well, but pity means something is terribly wrong or impossibly hard in my life. Instead, please have a bit of empathy and think that although my job may be harder, I am still just a Mom. I deal with most of the same things other moms do, it just may be a bit differently or later on.
Just be kind and do exactly what you would do to anyone else. Ask his age, where does he go to school, what books or shows does he like, any basic question is welcome and appreciated. Don’t be like the idiot a couple weeks ago who actually responded with “Is he high functioning?”. What if he wasn’t? Does that mean he’s not a real person? He’s doomed?
Very lucky I knew going to jail would be both expensive and problematic.
So, that long explanation above is why I choose to say:
“He has Autism” instead of “He is Autistic”.
(that likely overthinks everything)
***** P.S. This opinion is mine only and my choice on how to describe Autism. It in no way is trying to paint any dialogue or descriptions in a negative way. This is merely a narrative of my personal thoughts.