Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Do You Use "Autistic" as a Reclaimed Word?

Over on Musings of an Aspie, there's a great conversation going on about "Autistic" as a reclaimed word.

It's hard for me to give objective information about Autistic as a reclaimed word since I am Autistic and, in all honesty, Autistic is just what and who I am.  Autistic isn't an insult to me.  Autistic has never been an insult in my world.  In my world, Autistic is just how I am.

That's the thing I found most amazing about this post: the reminder that Autistic is a label and it does often have negative connotations.  "Autistic" is a word that a lot of people associate with stereotypes that do not reflect the wide range of individuals who fall along the autism spectrum.

I know that when I use the word "Autistic," I am using it in a positive way.  However, when others say "Autistic," I'm the first to admit that I don't know their intentions with that word.  And that gives me a sort of skewed understanding of Autistic as a reclaimed word; it is reclaimed in a lot of ways but its connotation is so dependent on who is using it.

And, of course, this makes me think about people-first language...  But we'll get to that (for a little rant) later...

Autistic is not an insult.

We need to get that out there.  We need people to know that Autistics are all around and it's important to treat them respectfully, which of course includes using respectful language.

Person-first language is not something that tends to offend Autistics (or, by-in-large, the Autistics that I know), while it is important to other groups.  That's fine.  Person-first language is amazing in some situations and we cannot put person-first language down, even if we like saying "Autistic" instead of "person with autism."  And if you like saying "person with autism," that's just fine too.

I think we need to focus our efforts on using respectful language and just being respectful in general.  I think we often do use Autistic as a reclaimed word and I think that's fantastic; we just need to continue to teach others that autism is not something that should make anyone afraid.

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