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Walking the Language Tightrope

You can't please ALL of the people ALL of the time. But, you can try!

You can’t please ALL of the people ALL of the time. But, you can try!

 

I never envisioned walking this fine line, but I am. I don’t have the PhD’s or the circus credentials to accomplish this with perfect skill. Yet, I strive to improve and edit as I go!

 

It only stands to reason that AUTISM, a ”different way of being” so vastly misunderstood, misdiagnosed, misdefined and seemingly invisable until the 1940′s would come along with a heap of problematic language. Even some 70 yrs. later we are no where near getting it right! The professionals have their clinical labels and jargon for their DSM-5. The advocates both self and parent have ever changing and shifting dialogues over what is and what isn’t Autistically correct.  The struggle seems immense but, I do see great change coming.

 

                                                        AutismHWY “Road Rules”

I have been craving them for the world!! That guide book will hopefully be written in the very near future by the brilliant  and eloquent Autistic Adults emerging in our community.

                                                       You know who you ALL are!

 

People have been so mystified by Autism that sometimes it seems they will just say anything. We have all heard the phrase, “He or she speaks, just to hear the sound of their own voice.” Right? Well, I find that to be true about Autism. No one wants to feel out of the loop. We all want to feel knowledgeable don’t we? So when Autism is brought up in conversation surrounding my son people tend to grapple for what to say. If the person has no first hand experience with Autistic folks you literally see the sweat begin to form. People become flushed with anxiety and nervousness about what to say.  Often you get a garbled re-hash of catch phrases and media driven stereotypes  mixed in with whatever happens to be the news of the day. This usually leaves me feeling shell shocked, not sure which myth to dispel first….and as I begin to speak to explain a bit about Autism as it pertains to my son. I will be asked, “What  is Wyatt’s “Special-talent?” Because I have heard they all have a special talent.”

Cross OVER!!!

Cross OVER!!!

 

 

I understand this as  human  nature. A reaction to deflect a person’s fear and discomfort with the subject. So many negatively charged signals have been sent to society about Autism from many different factions. Never from an official or unbiased source. Until the Autistic Self Advocacy Network was formed there had been no supreme  source teaching the world what’s, what from an Autistic point of view! So with no “official” knowledge people have had a tendency to first pity you and then recite the above ‘script’ as if the more they talk the less you will realize how uncomfortable they are!

A big majority of people do not want to seem  uninformed in this day and age of massive access to information. So when they regurgitate the messages they have absorbed about my son and Autism, it can vary greatly, from sweet and understanding to tragically misinformed to insulting to downright disturbing. All of the while the person speaking is unaware of the language they choose to use and the connotations of what they are really saying. In their minds they are proving to me that they are “up on” the news of the day concerning Autism and at the same time showing me that in the moment they care about “my situation.”

Words to denote the separations are entrenched in our vocabulary like bad habits. Often times we do not even hear them or realize we are saying them. Sadly even the word “special” can be seen as condescending when attached to a differently abled individual.

 

Danger....tread lightly, words can hurt.

Danger….tread lightly, words can hurt.

 

“My situation. ” Two words spoken to me this week that to most seem completely inconsequential. But, when you listen to the context in which they were used, those words were meant to “other” me.  Placing me in a different subset. “Oh, I can understand why you might think that because of your situation.” As if my situation supercedes my humanity. Seemingly pointing out that my opinion is now somehow less than as the mother of an Autistic person.  Somehow discounted. Somehow different than everyone else’s.

 

This is how Autistic people have been regarded: as a separate set of people that have no say. Their lives and fates largely and sometimes completely decided by others that do not understand them, their systems or how they need to navigate the world. People planning their lives for them and around them without regard to their thoughts, desires and needs. Assuming that they are not capable of making those choices on any level. In the past, and still- for Autistic people the “Father knows best” mentality becomes “Anyone else but the Autistic person knows best.” Think about that and please let it resonate. It is completely wrong headed thinking and needs to cease. It is the ultimate oppression.

 

The oppression of thoughts and desires about ones own future. We need to cross the language barriers and define new ways to differentiate for our inclusive futures. Autistic people are just like Allistic people ; human with all of the exact  random combinations of personality traits and pathologies people will have or will not have. The defining difference is that Autistic people operate under a differently processing central nervous system that has varying affects on their being. So as we define our futures and move forward toward deep understanding and acceptance let’s think carefully about the language we choose.

 

Are you seperating people with words or are you working toward realizing we are; ALL ONE very “special” human race!

 

 

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