Friday, August 21, 2009

The "A" Word

My son is not autistic. He has autism.

When people say "autistic" is just feels like my skin wrinkles and crawls and tingles in horrible, unspeakable ways. It is a word that I hate. It is not a word that I use.

I used to think that I was overly sensitive perhaps, but it turns out there are a lot of people like me out there. In fact, I've met few parents who use the 'A' word in reference to their kids. Our kids have autism. It is just one characteristic of them, not the be all, end all, all-defining characteristic of them. If you meet Aiden, and you heard that awful word first, you'd miss the opportunity for so many of his other great characteristics to take centre stage in how you view him. If I had to use an adjective for him, I'd say he's my creative kid...who has autism.

Now don't go feeling all bad if you're a regular in spitting out the 'A' word, and perhaps you're a parent who doesn't mind the word at all. That's each his own. Maybe you'll rethink it and agree with me maybe you'll rethink it and disagree with me, or maybe you'll just give your wording some thought. It's all good.

But as for me, I want to use language that puts the child first, and the label second. I think it's one of the reasons that some parents have such a big problem with labeling their children, they really believe that once they have a label, people won't see past it. Sadly, that is true in some cases, no doubt.

So, whether we're talking about a child with a heart condition, a child who has diabetes, a child with a hearing impairment, or a child with Asperger's Syndrome...let's let them be children first. Let's call them children first. And maybe, just maybe, everyone will see them, and appreciate them, first and foremost, as children.


  1. you've hit the nail on the head here...

    ableist culture is too quick to assume that there's something wrong or that there's something to be cured or fixed... thanks for this reminder...

    also... know of another blogger you may want to check out if you haven't already met:


  2. thanks Jon, and thanks for the link too!