Just Plain Autism

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People are constantly thinking they’re being nice or polite by insisting my son must be Aspie not autistic. They think it means “high-functioning” or “mild” autism, and they think it’s a compliment.

Of course, the only way that would be a compliment is if we agree that autism is a bad thing, and that being less autistic is better than being more autistic. I don’t agree with this premise, so there is no flattery in the assertion. 

People swear he isn’t autistic,  because he can do things they’ve been told autistic people can’t do, like laugh and hug and play with peers. Rather than seeing his competence and changing their opinion of autism, they decide he is a special case who doesn’t really count.

I was the same way, years ago before my son’s diagnosis.  When my god mother, who was a nurse practitioner working with babies with developmental delays, first suggested my infant child might be autistic, I took it as an insult, not her expert opinion.  I thought to myself “He is happy and affectionate and smart. He must not be autistic.”

In recent years the diagnosis of Aspberger’s Syndrome has been folded into the larger diagnosis Autism Spectrum Disorder.  My son was diagnosed a few years before the change. He was diagnosed as autistic. Not Aspie. Not mild autism. Not high-functioning autism. Just regular old plain autism, without modifying adjectives. 

Today I recognize that he is happy, affectionate, smart, and autistic.  None of these traits cancels out the others. It was only my ignorance and bigotry that made me reject the proper label for him. It is only their ignorance and bigotry which leads people to believe misdiagnosis is kindness. 

Of course it’s hard: it’s parenting.

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