Did you know that autism isn’t meant to be capitalized? According to English language rules, a disorder isn’t capitalized unless named about someone (case in point: Asperger’s Syndrome). I’ve always loved the English language. It’s a total rule follower – except when it’s not. I appreciate those rogue cases – where all logic gets thrown out the window – and hell breaks loose. I can relate to that!
You can look around books, newspaper articles, social media, and the like and you will surely see a mixture of both. Perhaps it’s because of the short abbreviation ASD, perhaps it’s just due to assumptions on how things are done, or maybe it’s because autism seems like a powerful occurrence to others, and deserves the respect of a proper title.
It makes me wonder, if the capital use of the word, is also directly related to the power we give to this neurological label.
In our family, while some choose to capitalize, we tend to minimize.
Why? Because autism isn’t a person. Autism isn’t a place.
Liam isn’t who he is because he is autistic.
Autism doesn’t get that power. Being autistic is just an adjective to his story. It doesn’t tower over him, direct his path, or make decisions for him. Autism didn’t teach my smart guy to read, to time jokes perfectly, or have a smile that could light up the whole world.
No, autism doesn’t make Liam the coolest kid I know, LIAM is the one who has done that. People don’t fall utterly and hopelessly in love with my smiley little boy because of his autism, it’s just a piece of his story.
Autism isn’t a deciding adjective anymore then saying someone has pale skin. It may affect the decision making process when protecting your skin, but it certainly doesn’t define the type of person you are.
When we were first experiencing the diagnosis, I’ll freely admit autism seemed like a big scary rain cloud. The kind of thing that determines your course for the day. The very thing that limits what you can do.
But as we grew into autism, mostly through being in the ‘thick of it’, I learned that autism is just one tiny part of Liam’s full story. We acknowledge that our son is autistic, that his brain is wired a bit differently than many others. We respect that because our son has autism — often times we need to use a trial and error based system to see what works best for him as he navigates life.
But autism isn’t scary, ruly, or in control. And I promise you, it’s not possible to have a whole life crammed into a single word.
I have had the pleasure of connecting with other families on the spectrum over the last few years, and I consider myself so blessed to meet and hear their stories. The most prominent thread that links us all together, is that each child — each story — is vastly different. Every child I’ve met is so wildly different and precious. Having autism may be a thread they all share, but it certainly isn’t the whole blanket.
I would love to hear from you! Are you a family on the spectrum? How do you refer to autism?