Before I start this post I would like to write that it is not meant to offend. It is just my view and how I feel about being autistic. Some people with autism may disagree.
What does it mean to be autistic? A search of the internet might inform you that:
- Autism is a lifelong developmental disability (NHS).
- Autism is listed in the DSM V (diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders) which would suggest that it is a psychiatric disorder.
- Receiving support as an autistic person often requires that one identifies as disabled.
- To prove you are entitled to this support you have to be formally ‘diagnosed’. Diagnosis is generally a term reserved for the sick.
- In order to be able to get the formal diagnosis you are assessed by a doctor of some description, perhaps a psychologist or a psychiatrist. The doctor will consider your ‘symptoms’ and whether they fit the diagnostic criteria.
What if all of this is wrong? What if being autistic is just another way of being? A particular brain type, which functions as well as any other given a suitable environment. I don’t see myself as disabled (by autism), disordered or sick. Yet I am autistic. I’m happy to be autistic. Many others may feel this way if they hadn’t had a lifetime of being conditioned to think of themselves as disordered or broken.
Being labelled as autistic brings with it stigma. Many false stereotypes still prevail: lack of empathy, no sense of humour, poor imagination. In actual fact autistic people are as diverse as the non-autistic population. We can have successful careers, be part of loving marriages, raise happy children. We can be funny, friendly, kind. Some autistic people have very difficult lives, perhaps because they are struggling in a world that doesn’t understand them or accommodate them. This however isn’t the case for all autistic people. Just like the non-autistic population, we are individuals. We are typically individual.