Warning: I’m venting a bit here. I’ve had a really bad week and I’m sick and tired of being judged/corrected by people who are supposed to understand. I really don’t understand why people can be so intolerant of another person’s choice to refer to their own child as Autistic. I have been corrected many times by people who are offended by me referring to my own kids as being Autistic. Are we really that petty?
As a father to 3 Autistic boys, I’m sensitive to the words people use to describe them. I have called for the removal of the word “retard”, so as not to be used to describe person’s with special needs. However, I have noticed a growing, arrogant and judgmental trend within the community itself.
There are people going around policing (for lack of a better word) blogs and comments and correcting the use of the word Autistic. I have personally been approached (and by approached I mean more like attacked) by people for referring to my own children as being Autistic. I know this isn’t isolated to just me as I have heard from many other people, sharing a similar experience
A blogging friend of mine ran into this same situation recently over her choice of words and it got me thinking about all the times this has happened to me. I have learned to kinda brush it off. However, I’m left to wonder why are people so easily offended by something like this? Why do they feel the need to openly criticize other special needs parents when we are all supposed to be on the same side?
When I talk about my kids, especially on this blog I refer to them as being Autistic, having Autism or having special needs. For example, I say things like, “Emmett is Autistic” or “all 3 of my boys are Autistic”. However, over time, it has become clear that there is a level on intolerance within the community for a parent’s word choice when it comes to describing their own child’s condition. I have been corrected on more then one occasion by people who are offended by my choice of words. They tell me I should say, Emmett has Autism instead of Emmett is Autistic. Personally, I use the words interchangeably, as to me, they me the very same thing.
I really don’t get it. I don’t understand why people are so uptight that this would bother them. Are they suggesting that I’m somehow disrespecting my children by referring to them as Autistic? DO they believe that I don’t love my kids because I’ll say they are Autistic? It certainly feels that way.
Perhaps they are they questioning my intelligence or my ability to use the English language? Maybe, they look at me as insensitive? Do they think they are better or more politically correct than I am? I simply don’t understand why anyone would climb up on their high horse and see fit to crusade against parents who refer to their child as Autistic? I mean, don’t we have much bigger things to worry about?
What I have gathered of the logic, if you want to call it that, behind this movement (for lack of a better word) is this. They would say, Emmett is not Autistic. Emmett is…well..Emmett, and he just happens to have Autism. By saying Emmett is Autistic some people must feel like Emmett is identified by his condition rather than by who he is. That’s my admittedly limited understanding of the motives behind these corrections.
The more I think about this, the more I actually find it offensive and even a bit arrogant. I take offense to someone correcting me when I say my children are Autistic. Why is that such a problem?
What if I say that my boys are Americans instead of persons residing in America? Is that offensive?
What’s the difference? When I introduce my kids to anyone I introduce them by their name not their diagnosis. Saying Emmett is Autistic doesn’t make him any less Emmett. I know who my son is and I know what he has. He’s my baby and I would do anything for him. The same thing goes for all of my boy’s. Who are you to say otherwise?
Maybe the problem lies in the fact that some people haven’t accepted the fact that their child is Autistic?
Maybe for them, they are unable to separate the two. Perhaps hearing me or anyone else referring to their own child as Autistic somehow shatters their view of their own child. I don’t know, why anyone would be so passionate about this? Judging by their reaction however, it must be hitting a nerve.
I guess the whole point is that we all have much bigger things to worry about. I know I do.
Whether you say, your child is Autistic or your child has Autism, the reality of the situation doesn’t change. Choosing to say that your child has Autism instead of your child is Autistic doesn’t lessen the impact of an Autism Spectrum diagnosis what so ever. My kids are first and foremost my kids. They are individuals and have their own thoughts and feelings, likes and dislikes.The word Autistic, to me doesn’t identify my children but rather a condition that makes up a piece of who they are.
We should be more worried about some of the truly offensive words being used or perhaps more focused on building a better future for our children. Splitting hairs over word choice is ridiculous. Why can’t we all respect each others choices and work together rather than creating resentment and ill will.
By chastising other parents who are more comfortable with their child’s condition or simply more tolerant of word choice, you are alienating yourself from a community that would much rather be your ally then your enemy.
A final note:
Doesn’t the “child first” language kinda make it seem like their is something wrong with being Autistic? If you focus so much on putting the child before the disorder, when in fact, the disorder is part of who they are. Doesn’t that send the wrong message. Shouldn’t we be embracing our children for who they are (Autism and all) and not try to separate out the parts we are uncomfortable with? Just a thought…..