I’ll be blunt: Labels don’t accomplish anything toward acceptance. Isn’t that what our end goal is, anyway? Acceptance? We’ve been fighting for awareness for so long now, everyone and their second-cousin is aware that Autism (or “Autisms” as new research would suggest) exists. So, I guess acceptance should be the next step.
I see many people use labels when they actually mean to discuss their or their loved ones’ diagnoses. What do I mean by this? Here’s an example:
Bill: Did you hear that Autism affects 1-in-68 people, now?
Ted: Yeah! My cousin’s Autistic.
I hope I’m not the only one who caught what was wrong with that conversation. What Ted meant to say was:
Ted: Yeah! My cousin has Autism.
But wait, Jon! That sounds exactly the same! What’s the difference?
Actually, it’s a huge difference! In the first example, Ted used a label to identify his cousin as “Autistic.” This implies that Ted’s cousin is nothing more than his diagnosis. Anyone who has been affected by ASD should know that this is not the case. People diagnosed with ASD (I call us “Puzzle Pieces” if you’re new to the blog) are diversely affected by it.
Some Puzzle Pieces are verbal; some are not. Some Puzzle Pieces have an acute attention to detail most of us could only dream of; some of us don’t. Some of us have a brilliant mind and excel academically, while others struggle with basic concepts. ASD affects us in different ways, but we are always more than just our diagnosis.
In the second example, Ted discusses his cousin’s Autism as a diagnosis. This keeps his cousin’s integrity as more than just a label intact.
Notice how the way he phrases it here: He “has Autism.” This implies that his cousin has his diagnosis; his diagnosis does not have him. He is in control of his Autism, and he’s not defined by it.
Aren’t you the one who calls your blog the “Aspie” Epilogue? Isn’t that defining yourself as a label?
Good question! I don’t see it as “labeling myself” so much as it’s a sort of a self-identity. Before you start raising the red flags, let me elaborate on that.
It’s not a self-identity in that I’m an Aspie, and it defines me. It’s a self-identity insomuch as look at all I’ve been through and I’m still standing. I’ve been through a lot because of my Asperger’s Syndrome, and I’m still standing tall. I’m still functioning, evolving, improving myself to be the best me I can be.
It’s not so much of a label as a badge to be worn with honor and pride that I can endure so much. That is why I call my blog the “Aspie” Epilogue.
My Asperger’s Syndrome doesn’t define me. Rather, I define my Asperger’s Syndrome through my life experiences. That, dearest readers, is the difference.