Autism Isn't Something You 'Have'
I've occasionally been corrected by some politically correct listener when I say my son is autistic . No, I don't mean that my son “has” autism . And no, I don't believe in saying " person with autism " instead of " autistic person " is any more appropriate (or descriptive, for that matter.) It's also awkward to say.
Autism isn't something he has – like a cold or a mosquito bite - that will eventually go away. It's an integral part of him. It affects not only his abilities, but his personality and the way he sees the world. Autism is inseparable from who he is.
So-called “person-first” language is intended to put the person before the disability. But I think it tends to highlight a special need like autism, turning it into a pathology instead of a neurological difference that has its pros and cons . Person-first language also fails to recognize the fact that many people feel their long-term conditions and differing abilities are a major part of their identity.
Higher functioning autistic people often refer to themselves as Aspies , for example (short for Asperger's, the name of the syndrome that until recently was recognized as a separate condition from autism.)
The deaf community carries this even further, as they have their own language and culture. The politically correct term “ person with hearing loss ” misses the mark broadly by not only failing to recognize the deaf culture, but also implying deaf people are somehow less than people with average hearing.
Probably the worst part of all this political correctness is that an outsider is trying to define for me and mine how we perceive and speak about my son's autism. Those most likely to come out and correct the way we speak tend to be people whose experience of autism is limited, at best. It's exceedingly presumptuous for them to think they know what we're living – let alone to tell us how to speak about it.
Image credit: Disability icons by the National Park Service/Wikipedia (public domain)
Note: This article was migrated from Bubblews, where I originally published it
Image Credit » http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Disability_symbols_16.png