Our language informs our perspectives and beliefs of ourselves & other people. With Autistic & otherwise Neurodivergent people, we have long been described through deeply dehumanising language. We are still stuck with the term “Autism Spectrum Disorder” being used by professionals, as though we are sick or ill. In reality, the word “disorder” is just a way for neurotypical people to pathologise any human being who deviates from their expectations of how humans ‘should’ be.
Sometimes “condition” is used instead to describe us, but this is no better as it is just a synonym of “disorder”.
Anything in the form of “risk of, condition, disorder” is rooted in the pathology paradigm and goes completely against what the Neurodiversity movement stands for, which is that there is no one ‘right’ way of being human.
Insight from Autistic people shows that there are emotional and psychological benefits to us identifying as “Autistic” rather than “person with autism” or “person with ASD”. The latter phrases are more stigmatising and have caused thousands of us to internalise shame over who we are. There is nothing pathological or wrong about us. To call oneself Autistic and/or Neurodivergent is a rejection of the stigma and dehumanisation of our community. My sense of self has significantly improved ever since I started identifying as Autistic rather than any medicalised terminology I was previously taught to associate myself with. “Autistic” reduces isolation as it connects us to our culture, rather than being made to believe there is something broken or missing within us.
Of course, language preferences are up to the individual in how they wish to be referred to. However, many of us are ingrained with the pathology paradigm from the moment we are born and are not provided with genuine opportunities to discover our identity or question the way we are defined by society.
Changing our perspectives and language does not mean we are denying the challenges we have or saying that we do not require any support, hence why many of us recognise that we are disabled (which is not a bad word) in the world.
Please be considerate with the language you use when talking about Autistic & otherwise Neurodivergent people. How we are described or spoken about can have an enormous impact on our self-worth and wellbeing. It is no one’s fault that society has conditioned everyone under the pathology paradigm, but we all have a moral responsibility to shift from this dehumanising language and way of viewing human beings.
Shifting to the Neurodiversity paradigm takes a lot of work, but it is worth it. Making this shift will liberate us from the pathology paradigm and cultivate a greater acceptance for the multifaceted nature of our humanity.
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“We are not disordered.
We do not have a condition.
We are Autistic.
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