Why you should never assume anything about people with autism
Decades ago I found myself working with a young woman with autism. I had done my reading of the autism texts of the time, and was singularly surprised when nothing I had read matched up to the person I was sat next to. There was no flapping, she had no interest in my earrings or buttons, and she certainly wasn’t even lining anything up.
We know so much more about autism now but the idea that all people with autism are disordered, impaired, or somehow “lesser” is one that still needs to be challenged. Having worked closely with people with autism for more than 20 years, I have had the pleasure of meeting many hugely intelligent, insightful, kind, caring, loyal, skilled autistic individuals, including two of my best doctoral students who both graduated successfully and are now prominent in their respective fields.
Some of the strongest marriages I have encountered are between people with autism, and I have also met multi-millionaire entrepreneurs who have been identified as autistic.
Identifying not diagnosing
So, the question remains, why is it that autism continues to be seen as a disorder, with terms such as “impaired functioning” still so rife within the literature and current diagnostic manuals? Why is it that one needs to present as a “problem” before being in a position to be identified as autistic? Even the term “diagnosis” brings along its own associations with “illness” or “disease”. Surely, this gives out the wrong message to all involved – parents, individuals, and the public.
For years I have been suggesting “identification” as a more appropriate term, which counters the pejorative language
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