Let's discuss: "Living with autism."
Mar 17, 2021
I'd like to encourage individuals, professionals seeking out education to be better allies, and families of neurodivergent individuals to be cautious when engaging with any information and education around "neurodiversity".
The word has become the new buzzword for many to hijack, not having a true understanding of all it encompasses.
I'm seeing more and more seminars, workshops and even in the recruitment process for my own business, I've seen the terminology used like this:
"...people living with neurodiversity".
Neurodiversity is a biological fact.
It points to diversity in neurobiology.
It is inclusive of everybody that has a brain, a central nervous system, a body.
Neurodivergent points to a person who "deviates from typical", who diverges from "neurotypical".
So, we're all living with brains and bodies, right?
It's awful, just awful as an autistic person to read and hear people use the words "Living with autism" like it’s some kind of momentous event one needs adulation for.
No. It is disempowering and seeks to separate me from autism, where autism is central to my being!
It influences everything about me, my sensory systems, my sleep, my diet, my movement, my health, my processing, my thinking, my skillsets, the way I respond to my environment.
And a majority of the autistic community prefer identity-first language: we are autistic.
When we say "Living with autism", it's riddled with pity, sadness, and only difficulty.
It's not a narrative I accept for myself and I also don't accept those who are not autistic deciding for autistic people who we are or how we should feel about who we are.
The concept of neurodiversity was coined to be inclusive, empowering.
If EVER you see the word used in the same space where there is ABA therapy, doom and gloom narratives, social skills training, compliance therapies or deficit-based terminology and views of autism, then the word NEURODIVERSITY is the odd one out and the team, professional or individual using it lacks understanding of its true meaning.
I choose identity first language as a reclamation of a language and term used as a slur and seen as negative.
I'm not a "person with autism"...
I know I'm a person. Clearly. But I'm not a neurotypical person with a side of autism.
Autism is my identity and culture.
My life is constructed around autistic culture so I can thrive.
Is a Jewish person a Christian with a side of Jewish?
Are they a person with Judaism?
Autism is not "my medical disorder".
It's a disability, yes. But I am not disordered and I am only disabled by how accommodating, understanding and accessible my environment is - the social model of disability.
I am exactly as I should be, was born to be and will be until I die.
My life is not easy. Being autistic is not easy.
But it isn't bad because it's difficult.
It isn't a disorder because it's difficult.
Disability isn't bad because it's difficult.
Diversity is an opportunity for society to reflect and change.
For social and cultural constructs to be examined.
As it still remains, autistic people are the safest and most reliable people to learn about autism from.
We are all "LIVING WITH NEURODIVERSITY."
But I am not living with, suffering from, or a person with...
And ultimately, when people take these words we use in the autistic community to be empowered, self-accepting and finally access a paradigm that is centred around love and kindness toward ourselves, it is a form of identity theft.
It is used with dishonesty, to draw vulnerable people into events and environments they believe are radically accepting, only to be taught otherwise.
Hijacking the neurodiversity paradigm is identity theft and culture theft.
I am autistic and I subscribe to the neurodiversity paradigm.