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Autism – it’s all in the language. A guest post by Seppe

Hello everyone,

I’m Seppe, and I’m a guest writer at Vicky’s blog. As you can probably guess, I’m an autist. Or an autistic individual, or a person with autism, or someone with ASD. I know there are people who dislike one or more of these names, but I don’t. Frankly, I don’t understand why anyone would hate or dislike a name for something. It’s like people have been saying since the seventeenth century: what’s in a name?

There are two reasons why I’ve mentioned that I don’t understand that. The first is that I really don’t, which means that I’ll be using all those different names throughout this post, without meaning to offend anyone. I just use all of them.

The second is that the phenomenon of people disliking certain names for something actually serves as quite the example of what I want to write about, which is that most things only have a certain value or characteristic because we give it to them. Think about it: if you feel offended by me using the term autist, then that means that you have given that word a certain value. The actual meaning of ‘autist’ is ‘someone who has ASD’, but for some reason, many people add a negative value to it. They make it so that the word feels demeaning, or just plain mean, to them. While it does not actually have that meaning at all. 

Now, people don’t add values to names and words alone. We tend to add them to almost everything. Even to ASD, which is something that comes in all different shapes and sizes, and has been studied very thoroughly. What I mean is that people have a tendency to have certain prejudices. 

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not judging here. Having certain prejudices about certain things is only natural. Having them about autism is as well. I sometimes find myself having them, too, even though I’m autistic myself. Most often when I do something I didn’t expect I was going to be able to do, because of my autism, like making new friends. Every time I make a friend, I’m honestly surprised. So, as I said, having prejudices is not wrong. Not at all. But it’s important to know that a prejudice is something you have created, in your own mind, and is not necessarily true because of that.

I’m Flemish, which means my mother tongue is Dutch, and in Dutch, ASD is often described as a functiebeperking, which roughly translates to ‘limitation of the capability to function properly’, or simply as beperking, which means ‘limitation’. Now that is a word with which I have a problem. Autism is not a limitation. But, apparently, a lot of people have given it that characteristic, resulting in it being one of the most used terms for it. 

However, as I said, autism is no limitation of my capability to function properly in any society. Of course, it can sometimes make fully functioning more difficult, it can give me certain challenges to overcome, but it is never, ever a limitation. That is, until I allow it to be one. Once again, the self-added value comes along. If I were to give my being autistic the value of ‘limitation’, then it would immediately become one. Which is why I refuse to do that.

I refuse to believe that there are things I cannot do that neurotypical people can. Are there things I have difficulty doing? Yes. Are there situations in which I’m less comfortable? Also yes. Are there things I (sometimes) refuse to do because they will trigger me or overwhelm me? Definitely yes. But is there anything, which is necessary to fully function in daily society, that I don’t have the possibility to do? No. Because I give autism the value of ‘difficulty’ instead of that of ‘limitation’.

I don’t know what it’s like in the UK, but in Belgium, people need to understand this. They need to know that autism is no limitation. And they need to know that prejudices and connotations are merely the creations of their own minds. So I hope that I can make a difference in that aspect by writing this. I really do.

Thank you for reading, and thanks to Vicky for posting my text. And, also to Vicky, thanks for helping every single autist in the world by making people realize that we do, in fact, are able to function properly, but that it often takes much courage and can be very tiring. You help people see what they can do to help us, to make life easier and, frankly, more fun, and for that, I’m truly grateful. Thanks. 

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