Education v The Autistic Community
I grew up in the 90s when many people were just figuring out that autism existed, it was just being diagnosed widely. As a child, I really didn’t understand much other than teachers seemed to hate me. My mom was recommended to place me in a home because I was a burden to her, the teacher, and to society as a whole. I was in middle school when this happened and these words are etched into me today. I decided then that I’d go into education so that students wouldn’t suffer at the hands of horrible teachers like the one I had.
I quickly learned that the problem is with how teachers are taught about autism. The first mistake comes in terms with the language used to refer to people who are Autistic. Over and over we’re told that we should use the words “with autism” because we’re people first and not the condition. The idea that we are more than the condition is the main point of conversation. It is often something that professors will argue against anyone who says otherwise. What they don’t realize is that the Autistic community prefers Autistic and the mere fact of correcting Autistics who are within their classes saying they were misinformed. When in fact the entire way professors are taught to teach about our language is misinformed and incorrect. Professors are often fighting against autistics on Facebook posts about correct language use dying on a hill that they were taught. How can the Autistic Community move from the language that is perceived as the correct language to use when referring to a person who is Autistic? Autistics are honestly not getting through to colleges on their own and they continue to inform them of correct usage but are ignored extensively and told that they’re incorrect. My own poll, on Autistic and Teaching Facebook Page, in June of 2020 polled 7.1 thousand Autistics and found that 90% prefer Autistic, not with autism.
When will college institutions catch up and start using the correct language for our community? Once they start to change their language and inform their students of the correct and preferred identity-first language, then maybe just maybe it will start to trickle down, and then finally — the world might start to respect our preferred language.