One of the many topics that come up in social media groups is how people want to be identified as when it comes to their diagnoses. That is to be an Autistic person or a person with Autism. While the majority of the special needs population considers using the person first language is best, the thoughts within a decent amount of individuals on the Spectrum is to have the diagnosis first. It personally does not matter on an individual level which one someone chooses to prefer, but what message are you sending people unaware of your condition.
Saying that you are Autistic falsely puts people on the edge of their seat, since most people envision the worst about this different-order. It can also put yourself at a disadvantage to being the best you can be in this life. Ever hear of the concept of the self-fulfilling prophecy. Well it says if you think about something so hard and so long, it will be so. So how will someone ever realize their full potential if they want their deficits to be in the forefront of who they are in life. This is not to say that their are not positives to being a person the Autism Spectrum, there are. I still have this issue of saying "Why try this or that, your Autistic." at times in my life and guess what, those are the times I will not even try because I do not think I can change. That the process will always repeat itself and it does because I am too afraid to even try. However the times I just push through end up being some of the best things that have happened in my life.
I like to be referred as a person with Autism. This is because even though being an individual on the Spectrum, many of my feats in life are more important to my character as a person than something that was a diagnose that I got sixteen years ago. So with all that time has passed and all the work I have put in gets diminished the second someone hears that of my diagnose and fail to see the person I am and who I have become in my short life. I am so much more than a diagnosis. I am: highly educated (3 hrs away from Masters degree); a member of a lifetime fraternity of brothers that I could trust with my life; a certified personal trainer; a certified scuba diver (though I might need a touch up class if I want to go in the future); well traveled;a movie and TV show connoisseur; a countless varsity Letterman in high school sports (track, football, soccer, and swimming), and a scarred and tatted up person that can the history behind all of them. Out of all of these things, being a person with Autism falls way down on the list. Thinking about having this different-order would not have allowed me to find who I truly am.
When it is all said and done for me in this life, I will not be known just as that Autistic person but as this person that did so many things despite his starting diagnosis.
Throughout the years since my diagnosis, I get a certain thought in my mind at times. The thought of who/what am I? I ask myself this because of how I am. Unless I concentrate hard, I can not tell much about what other people think or feel. This is very discerning for someone who only has wanted to be like everyone else. But what is everyone else like?
Do they spend countless nights figuring out their morals and values?
Do they talk to other people and have no clue what that person might go be going through?
Do they envision living a day in someone else's life, no matter their condition?
Do they think about doing something till no more outcomes exist, even though they would never go through with doing that thing?
Do they question their path in this life and if it is the correct one?
Do they think of all the traits they would pass onto their offspring and if having kids progresses the human species as a whole?
Do they question how they are still alive and if everything they have experienced is real?
These are just some questions I ponder sometimes trying to understand myself better in relation to the human species. I know this might sound dark, but this just comes from a place of curiosity of who/what am I.
As someone who has always been classified as different than others, means finding out who/what I am takes a higher priority for me to try to understand my place in society.
Just thought I get this off my chest and give a sneak peek into my mind tonight.
When I first started blogging, I only just had immersed myself into the the Autism Subculture and one topic that I kept seeing was that we, population of individuals on the Spectrum, no longer needed to increase awareness instead needed to push for acceptance for individuals on the Spectrum.
But I am getting ahead of myself. Lets go over the definitions real quick.
Awareness or Aware is defined by Merriam-Webster dictionary as "having or showing realization, perception, or knowledge" or more simpler termed by "knowing something (such as a situation, problem, or condition exists; feeling, experiencing, or noticing something (such as a sound, sensation, or emotion); and knowing and understanding a lot about what is happening in the world or around you."
Acceptance is defined simply by Merriam-Webster dictionary as "the act of accepting someone or something". Since the word we are defining is in the definition, lets see what the definition of the root word of accept is by the same dictionary. Accept is defined in simple terms of as " to receive or take (something offered), to take (something) as payment, to be able or designed to take or hold (something)." This is vague, so I'll give you the whole definition which is, "to receive willingly <accept a gift>, to be able or designed to take or hold (something applied or added) <a surface that will not accept ink>, to give admittance or approval to <accept her as one of the group>, to endure without protest or reaction <accept poor living conditions>, to regard as proper, normal, or inevitable <the idea is widely accepted>, to recognize as true : believe <refused to accept the explanation>, to make a favorable response to <accept an offer>, to agree to undertake (a responsibility) <accept a job>, to assume an obligation to pay; also : to take in payment <we don't accept personal checks>, to receive (a legislative report) officially." I have underlined and bolded the definitions of accept that are prevalent to this writing.
So from these definitions, I have wondered what these individuals that are pushing for acceptance mean. What are they truly pushing to be accepted? Do they just want to be included? Does this crowd want acceptance in terms of being recognized by the world? Do they want acceptance for who they are as is?
Almost every instance these questions are not answered because I think there are a vast of individuals that truly just want is to be accepted for who they are as is. Not trying to improve their circumstance in this world that they were not asked to born in and not understanding that everyone everywhere has to make changes to themselves as a person to improve the circumstances that they were born into. But I will leave that for another post.
I personally believe awareness is the key, with a few critical times where acceptance is needed. I say this because as an individual in this world, I may not agree with everyone or their beliefs/truths or why they are the way they are because I am not them and will only see the world through my experiences and not theirs. However I can learn as much as I can in order to understand where they are coming from. In time I might be more of accepting of them and who/why they are, but that comes with time and commitment. Which can not be forced or it will just be fake.
What I think should be accepted when it comes to the Autism population is: that this population is growing with every generation with little resources to help them succeed; that behavior is communication, not just verbal speech; that environment is everything for the growth for a kid apart of this population, which includes a loving family atmosphere that is not afraid to push them to their limits, and that being different is not wrong or bad.
Do ya'll think it's more important for Awareness of Autism or Acceptance of Autism or both? Like to hear your thoughts.
Mark Fleming- Person on the Autism Spectrum