I am Autistic with a capital A.
I prefer Identity First language.
1. “I am Autistic” is a reclamation of identity, taking back what is mine. I stand proudly Autistic and I reject attempts made to stigmatise and stereotype who I am.
2. Autism is as much a part of my heritage and ancestry as the geographical nature of where I descended from. It runs through my blood lines, generations past.
3. Autism amplifies my connection to my children and myself, bringing a new understanding and awareness of my being, doing and thinking.
4. Autism is central to my being. It influences all there is about me; how I sleep, eat, think, move, relate to others, write, speak, respond to my environment. I would not be who I am if I were not Autistic; nor would I be a "better" or "more functional" version of myself.
5. I am not a non Autistic person first. I am an Autistic person. When others tell me I am a person first, it connotes a negative consideration of Autism. It translates to “Oh, it’s okay if you’re Autistic, you still have worth despite it”.
6. All that is good and worthy, all that is luminous and fierce, my qualities, my strengths; are all because I am Autistic and not despite it.
7. I am not a non Autistic person with a side of Autism. I have observed the danger in this understanding; a common translation that where there is a person first, the Autism can be treated so that the PERSON (non Autistic) shines through more. This is evident in the foundation of most therapies and the term “Early Intervention”.
8. I am Autistic. I AM defined by Autism. See above. When someone says “Your Autism doesn’t define you”, it translates as “There is so much more to you than Autism” as in, Autism is not a good thing and let's salvage some remnants of worth from in there somewhere.
9. Being Autistic is a good thing. I don’t have it, I can’t drop it off somewhere, it isn’t something I can ever be rid of or “recover” from and there isn’t a “real me” trapped inside. I have challenges, and so do you. I'm still happy. And when my challenges are associated with being Autistic, I'm still happy to be Autistic because I am happy to be me.
10. Autism is a brilliant thing for me. I LOVE, accept and embrace being Autistic. Why would I not? Should I not love, accept and embrace myself? When others say “You’re romanticising Autism”, it translates to “You’re making out that you’re worthy and valuable and ignoring that underneath it all, you’re a bit shit.”
11. When non Autistic people have problems, mental health challenges or face adversities in life, as a society we don’t make it all about them being NON AUTISTIC. We should not do this to Autistic people either.
12. Being Autistic means I am a particular type of human being. I share commonalities with other Autistic human beings, in the way I think, feel, do and be. I’m not disordered. I belong to a family of neurobiologically diverse human beings, often referred to as Neurodivergent people.
13. I am not ashamed of being Autistic. I don’t hide it, use more palatable words to describe myself or attempt to be Non Autistic. Those 30 odd years are over.
14. I speak openly and publicly about being Autistic to dismantle stigma and stereotypes and to offer a lived perspective so that our coming generations are better understood. I am not alone in this, there are many Autistic advocates doing the same.
15. Autism is my identity and my culture. A Jewish person is not a second rate non Jewish person with Judaism. A Transgender person is not a second rate cisgender person. A Black person is not a second rate Non Whyte person. We are all of value, complete and whole with our own identity and culture. This is called Diversity.
16. To expect me to behave, think, socialise and relate to others; to do, be, think and exist as a Non Autistic person is culturally disrespectful and ableist.
17. To assume a child or a person unquestionably requires a plethora of therapies because they are Autistic is also culturally disrespectful and ableist. We are people. People with varying needs. Every single human being is a person with needs.
18. The term "Early Intervention" is alarmist and ableist and incites fear and panic in families, creating disconnection and disempowerment. Language really matters. The way we refer to Autism influences our self worth as Autistic people and also influences society's understanding and attitudes toward us. Supports should be needs based and specific to the individual across the entire lifespan; with a drive for actualisation and not normalisation. Therapies with a focus on behavioural change harms the autistic person and completely dismisses their inner experience and behaviour as a communication.
19. Autistic people share commonalities in our thinking, being and doing. But we are still individuals. There is no high functioning or low functioning, there is no mild or severe Autism. Just as there is no high or low functioning, mild or severe human being. (How human being are you?) We are impacted by co-occurring conditions that vary, and our quality of life is often sadly defined by a non Autistic, biased focus on our behaviour in comparison to Non Autistic behaviour and deemed as functional or non functional. This is culturally disrespectful and ableist.
20. Autism is a disability, yes. My disability fluctuates according to how well supported or accommodated my Autistic way of being, thinking and doing is; and how well it is accepted and understood.
21. When I say “I am Autistic, and I prefer identity first language”, that’s all I’m saying. I say what I mean, and I mean what I say. It does not translate to “This is the one and only truth for all”. It is my truth. It is my choice. It is my experience and it is my preference. I am not telling others what to do or how to identify.
(Image description: A black and white photo of a woman shot from the waist up. Her hands on her hips and she is smiling wryly at the camera.)
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