• J.R. Reed

How I’m Autistic But Don’t Have Autism


Yes, I am on the spectrum. I was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome at age forty-six and thus think very logically.


These next couple paragraphs are going to be some facts just to establish what we’re talking about, so if you’re not on the spectrum, A.K.A. Neurotypical (NT), bear with me a moment, it gets better.


I do autism advocacy work and until a week ago had never heard of People First. I had no idea who they were, what they did, or why they did it. I’ve done a little research, and what I do know is positive. They are all about self-advocacy for the disabled and really seem to want to connect people.


But there’s something known as People First Language and I want to be clear that in all my research People First the organization and the state chapters have nothing to do with People First Language.


This surprised me.


Autism is a developmental disorder and not a disease, illness or sickness. This will be a key point to remember…


I was at this event recently for those with developmental disabilities, some of whom had caregivers and there were also parents of children with developmental disabilities in the group. During the presentation we were viewing, the presenter mentioned People First Language and the example on her slide was autism.


CORRECT:

I have autism.


INCORRECT:

I’m autistic.

“Bullshit!” I screamed in my head. That is absolutely 100% false. I slowly turned my gaze to make sure I had actually yelled it in my head and not out loud. Assured that I was alone in my thoughts, I continued to stew.


You have cancer, you have the flu, and you have strep throat. You do NOT have autism because autism isn’t a disease, illness or sickness. That’s the writer side in me coming out.


According to Dictionary.com. to “Have” something is to experience or undergo it. So you could add chemo or dialysis to the things you can have.


Autism makes me who I am. Strange, quirky, socially quiet, occasionally pushing deadlines too close to the wire and a comic book nerd who loves his colorful Converse. If that’s a disease, I want that sickness!


I am autistic because that’s a huge part of who I am.


Does this make sense to you? I’m not bashing on the People First Language, though I am saying that, “I have autism,” is grammatically incorrect. Sorry, but someone had to say it.


Honestly, as long as you’re not being derogatory, I really don’t care what you call yourself. If you’re happy with it, then I’m probably going to be cool with it as well. I’ll answer to autistic, Aspie, dude on the spectrum, guy with the purple goatee and nerd. Also J.R.


I’m all about finding the right terminology and the best ways to address people, so I’m totally on board with the idea of People First Language, but I believe there has to be a little wiggle room for those that are more comfortable using another term.


Besides the fact that it’s grammatically incorrect, the main reason I don’t say “I have autism” is because I’ve been saying I’m autistic for almost eight years now and it’s comfortable and ingrained in me. And again, being autistic is a large part of my personality and who I am.


A day or two after seeing the slide and first hearing of People First Language I was hit up by a second person on the same charges! I go fifty-three years with nothing and then in a span of a couple of days I’m hit with the same thing twice. What are the odds?


So what do you say, those in charge of People First, Language do we agree to disagree on this one? Or is there maybe, some slight possibility that I could be right on this one? To be clear, I’m good with agreeing to disagree.


If you think I’m going to watch what I call myself, you’re wrong. I’ll be more careful with regard to how I speak about others, but I’ll move forward knowing in my heart that I do not have autism and I never will. However, I am now and hopefully always will be proudly autistic,


Asperger’s is my superpower.


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