Autistic versus autism

Posted by Sarah on Nov 25, 2009 in Uncategorized |

I had a lady berate me a couple of days ago for using the word autistic rather than saying ‘has autism’. It wasn’t directly to me but to one of my new facebook friends Dixie who had kindly posted a link to my blog on her facebook page. As the blogs name is www.autisticchildren.com.au obviously the word autistic is in there. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that I’m opposed to criticism (though of course I’d rather there wasn’t any!) The lady who wrote was quite vehement about the fact that she hates the term autistic, she said that her son shouldn’t be classified as being autistic but rather that he has autism. I do understand where she is coming from. Several years ago I met a woman whose son has autism. She only has one son and I know what his name is. Occasionally I run into her in the street and we exchange pleasantries. If she is telling me about something that her son has done she refers to him as “my autistic son.” In fact she often uses the term to be derogatory such as “he does that (insert bad behaviour) because he’s autistic.” I find it very uncomfortable. I know that she also refers to me as “another autistic mum”, as in I am another mum with an autistic child. I don’t like it but there’s nothing much I can do about it. I handle it my way, she handles it hers.

Beth knows that she is autistic. She doesn’t have a problem with it, I guess because I don’t use it in a negative manner. It’s just a word after all. I’m glad that I can finally explain to her that she is because it helps me to teach her when her autism is the reason she finds it difficult to understand. For example, I can say to her that she has to be more careful when it comes to traffic because she is autistic. This means that she’s not as aware as other children when on the road, that she might be concentrating so hard on something that she wants that’s on the road that she tunes out the noise of an approaching car. She can then hopefully put this into her mind when we are out on the road. I’ve always hoped that when Beth learns that she is autistic that it would help her to help herself more, be more like the other kids by modifying behaviours that they don’t do. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want her to not be her, but if it’s making her life unhappy or more difficult then of course I am going to try to help her.

I’ve had mums say to me “oh, you’re one of those mums are you” when told that we’re trying the chellation therapy or other treatments over the years. They’re always mums of kids with autism. People who don’t have autistic kids don’t pretend to understand or judge generally. I guess it’s like ex smokers. They’re much more severe on smokers than people who have never smoked in the first place. I think some people think that I’m just not accepting the diagnosis or that even worse, I clearly can’t love Beth for who she is. I do accept that Beth is autistic, I’m just trying to make her life better for her sake. It’s not trying to fix her, it’s trying to heal her as much as I can. What’s so wrong with that.

Anyway, I do apologize if I have offended anybody, that wasn’t my intention in any way. I personally don’t have a problem with using a word to describe a situation. I have a problem with alcohol, I am therefore an alcoholic. My friends mum has diabetes, she IS a diabetic. Beth has autism, therefore she IS autistic. She’s not MY AUTISTIC DAUGHTER but she is autistic. And it has to be somewhere in the title of the blog, how else would people find it on the search engines. Donna Williams, the adult who has autism that I have spoken about, calls herself The Naughty Autie! I love that. I consider that title to be very apt for my Bethie in fact! There should be more people like that.

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