“Is”, “Has” or “With” Autism ? 

How do we like to be addressed ? 

What language is it that appeals to us and that we recognise as relating to ourselves ?. 

Sometimes, even with the best of intentions, it’s not that easy. Even the best of us get it wrong. 

I am Autistic. 

I don’t have Autism. It’s not the same as having a cold that will go; or a broken leg that will heal.  

I’m not someone with Autism. It’s not a side order. It’s not an attachment ; an add on. 

But even I get it wrong. 

At a meeting the other day I started off down the road of “with” and had to correct myself. I think it was because I was trying to explain to a third party; was trying to make them see how my Autism works so I slipped into “..for a person with…”. 

It happens. 

Sometimes I forget I am talking about myself. 

So for people with Autism. No. Scrap that. For Autistic people…

It’s quite easily done. 

I quite often hear the phrase “and those of you with ….have Autism”, when the comment is directed at me. I rarely correct it. I rarely say, “I think you mean Autistic people”. 

And I suppose I should have. 

The trouble is that quite often I’m so amazed they actually recognise Autism and even want to address it, that I let the language slide and then slip into it myself. 

But I’m Autistic. It’s genetic. It’s inherent. It’s not a part of me. It is me. It’s not my shadow or my faithful companion. There’s no with or has. There just is. 

I’m wary of too much policing. I know the hardliners will take a dim view of that. They’ll tell me I’m not helping the cause. That I’m being lax, that I’m perpetuating a myth. 

But if you police too much you risk alienating support. Even if the language used is incorrect isn’t it better for there to be an acknowledgement of existence rather than a lecture that reinforces how different we are. Do we want to spread awareness or immediately nip that in the bud by ridiculing anyone who gets the language wrong ?. 

Yes it’s about educating. It’s about explaining how we wish to be treated. It’s getting our preference out there but a snarling, biting response to a question such as “What’s it like living with Autism ?”, is more likely to make the questioner wish they hadn’t enquired. 

How much easier is to respond with “Thank you for asking. It’s not actually living with though, if I could just correct you there. It’s not something curable or that’s going to dissipate, it’s part of me, inherent, genetic …” rather than “Live with!!???. You don’t know anything do you ?. What a dumb question. I don’t live with Autism, I am Autistic!!!!..Learn something about Autism before you ask…rant..rant…rant…” 

Accept people will make mistakes. We do it yet seem, at times, very unforgiving of others who do. Educate gently, use persuasion and education not the big stick. Treat people nicely and they’re more likely to be supportive. Be rude and see how quickly the myths and stereotypes of Autism are spread. 

I’m not someone with Autism. I’m not someone who has Autism. 

I am Autistic. 

But even I get the language wrong. 

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