I recently read an article about certain labels, often used to describe the Autism Spectrum, and why they shouldn’t be used.
I’ve heard so many different ways to describe Autism and Asperger’s. They are all, at best, wrong, and at worst, severely damaging. Some of these labels include, but aren’t limited to: high-functioning, mild autism and autism light, like it’s the diet version of Autism or something equally stupid.
The reason that these are wrong is simple. I have a diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome, and I now function pretty well in circumstances where I’m comfortable. Yet if you had met me many years ago, in my youth … when I was at my lowest … I would have been either unable to communicate with you, or had very impaired communication and social interaction. I sometimes exhibited some very bizarre and risky behaviour, I was rarely able to sleep, or was sleeping at the wrong times, and sometimes became very aggressive. I self-medicated with alcohol and prescription and street drugs. Frequent self-injury resulted in my waking up in the resuscitation room of my local hospital on more than one occasion. I’m glad those days seem to be in the past, now.
Yet in more recent years, you would find that, I’m quite sociable and have a very demanding and intense public-facing job, Despite this, I still have great difficulty in communicating effectively and interpreting how or what others are thinking or feeling. I really can struggle badly with facial expressions, body language and social cues. I also struggle to regulate my own emotions, but I’ve learned to channel this into my writing. I really love repetition and routine. I also have a very big love of science, mainly quantum mechanics and geek culture, including going to conventions and interviewing some big names.
Why have I told you all this? Well, if you just looked at or met me when I had the first set of behaviours and symptoms you would probably say I had low-functioning autism. Whereas if you met me today, you would maybe say that I’m a bit eccentric or have a form of high-functioning autism. The fact is that I am me.. the same me as I was then, and I now have a diagnosis of Asperger’s or Autism Spectrum Disorder. That should be sufficient, without putting “functioning” labels on it because as the above proves, it’s a spectrum. As such, we can find ourselves at varying points on the spectrum at certain times in our lives. I am Autistic – that’s it – my functioning level can and always will vary depending on external situations and stimuli.
In short, labels go on food cans, not people.
Stay Safe X