#Autism:The Politically Correct Minefield

I wrote this back in December 2011 but I think it’s still very relevant.

 

What does wishing someone a “Merry Christmas” and saying “my child is Autistic” have in common?  Read on to find out.

Something has been bothering me lately and it’s time I sound off and speak my mind.  I apologize if I offend anyone with my opinions but they are what they are.

I’ve grown tired of all the political correctness police out there in the world today.

I fully understand that no one wants to be offend,  or worse offend someone else,  but it’s gotten out of control.

I noticed something this year.  I found myself wishing people a Happy Holidays instead of a Merry Christmas. I realized that last week and you know what,  it bothers me.

I also realized why I was doing that as well.

I have found that by wishing someone a Merry Christmas when they don’t celebrate Christmas,  is offensive to some people.  I have been yelled at a few times by people,  who were offended by what I thought was a kind gesture on my part.

The last thing in the world I wanted to do was upset someone by simply wishing them a Merry Christmas.

I eventually became afraid to say that for fear of the response I would get,  and to be completely honest with you,  that’s really sad. People say things like,  “by wishing me a Merry Christmas,  you’re being insensitive to my beliefs”. Really?  My intention was nothing short of wishing them well and it totally backfired.

Something similar happens in the Autism community as well and to be quite frank, I’ve grown tired of it.

Let me say that I’m speaking from my own,  personal experience here.  If you haven’t experienced what I’m going to talk about,  consider yourself lucky.

As my blog becomes more and more popular, I come in to contact with a great number of people. Most of these people are special needs parents themselves simply wanting to talk or share their experiences and I love hearing from them.

However,  this past year I have found a growing number of people that feel the need to correct my choice of words. I have been corrected by other special needs parents who seem hypersensitive and very easily offended by the use of the word Autistic.

For example,  during the course of a conversation I’ll say something like “my son is Autistic“.  These people feel the need to say something like “don’t you mean your son with Autism“.

Typically, I respond by saying,  “don’t they mean the same thing“.

When I’m corrected by these parents,  they explain that calling my child Autistic,  is offensive and degrading. By saying my son is Autistic,  I’m defining him by his diagnosis.

This is complete and utter nonsense in my opinion.

I mentioned the politically correct mine field earlier. This is what I meant.  You never know when things are going to blowup in your face.

To me,  whether I say Autistic or with Autism,  I am referring to the exact same thing.  They are both,  descriptive words used to describe a condition.  Neither of which I personally think are offensive.  Now,  if someone used the word “retard” or something similar,  that’s a completely different story.

I think that “retard” is deemed offensive by most people and rightfully so.

Why are some people so sensitive to the word Autistic when I’ve spoken to many adults on the Spectrum who actually prefer the word Autistic and don’t find it offensive in the least.

I think it’s important to remember that whether you use the word Autistic or with Autism,  it doesn’t change the reality of the situation.

To be completely honest,  when you put so much negative weight on a single word like,  Autistic,  you can give the impression that there is something wrong with being Autistic as it means the same as with Autism.

The reality is, that the challenge,  joy and heartache of raising my 3 amazing boys on the spectrum is not impacted,  one way or the other by my use of the word Autistic. I would imagine that most people would find that they have the same experience,  regardless of their word choice.

We are approaching a new year and so we have a chance for a new beginning.  Let’s take advantage of that opportunity and embrace what makes us different instead being divided by them.

The next time someone wishes you a Merry Christmas -when you don’t celebrate it- why not just say thank you,  instead of correcting them.  It was likely that the person was trying to wish you well and had no intention of offending you.

Likewise,  the next time you find yourself in a conversation with someone and they refer to their child as being Autistic instead of with Autism,  why not just finish the conversation instead of correcting their choice of words. You may find that you learn something.

I’m of the opinion that we are better when united,  despite our differences, instead of being divided by them.

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StefanieSacks

happy holiday cover everyone i think ,also i tell parents with young kids that they dont allways need to explain to stranger in the mall if there child is having a melt down as i seen an no that plenty of nt litte kids up to a certin age have crazy melt down to .

JohnWhite1

Very interesting post although I feel differently than you do about this. As a parent of a 5 year old boy with autism, I don't use the term "autistic" to describe him, because, as you mentioned, I want to consciously seperate him from his diagnosis.  I put a lot of stock in our subconscious and its ability to drive our behavior.  I think that the postive results that my wife and I have achieved for our son have much to do with the fact that we seperate our son from his diagnosis. Please allow me to mention my blog post from Monday July 30th entitled "Why I Won't Use The Term 'Autistic'. I think you'll enjoy the post and it seems appropriate to mention it since it has to do with this subject.  My blog is at johnwhiteautism.blogspot.com.  Thank you for the post.  I hope that you'll visit my blog in the near future.  Discussions like these help other parents/caregivers form their own opinions about autism.
Thanks again,
John White.

lostandtired

 @JohnWhite1 Thanks for sharing your opinion in such a constructive and tactful manor. I will absolutely check out your site. Even though we don't agree, this is a great example of how that doesn't have to divide us, 

StefanieSacks

people have become so pc it redlicous .i understand that it good to a point but now it like you cant say anything with out offending someone no one know how to suck it up an deal any more

lostandtired

 @StefanieSacks Well said. 

StefanieSacks

lol i hear ya i have autism an ld an i get so annoyed with people who are not even on the asd telling me how me an my friebnds should lable are selfs or whatever i been liveiung this life for 46 years i can say whatever i want lol .but some parents get so wigg out over lables not having a clue how lucky they are to be living now with a child with autism or any special needs .i wish i was younger now things would be very diff .my parents had to find therhys for me an take me there i went to speacil school cuse there was nothing in public school no ei or therishy who came to your hjouse that didnt happen till my teen an on when i got ot .but on the merry xmass thing i get offened even those i celbreteboth becuse of mix marrige in the family .it offence becuse it not on most people radir that not everyone dose xmass i celbrate hunnunkha but i have so many other things i deal with i just say thanks or whatever when it happens

Julie

To me, Happy holidays means anywhere from Thanksgiving- New Year's Day. That is usually when the "season" starts. I don't have a problem with happy holidays, merry christmas, or the word autistic. lol

@k0nane

I don't understand the problem with either one. Being outside the community the "Autistic" vs. "with Autism" just baffles me – but "Merry Christmas" shouldn't be offensive to anyone. I say that as an atheist. Christmas is as much a secular holiday as a religious one – I have to suspect the ones that are getting offended are strong believers of another religion or sect such as the Jehovah's Witnesses.

Point is, when your ideology – on words or holidays – has you so worked up that you'll lash out at someone for saying something benign or kind-hearted, you need to take a hard look at yourself and what you believe. In the case of mere words… you need to look at the person who's speaking, too! Nobody would doubt you see your kids for who they are.

Lynn

Jenn50 – And as to the "Merry Christmas" thing….I'm not telling you that you MUST celebrate my holiday. I'm wishing you happiness at a time that is meaningful to me.

– I really like the way you phrased that! I'm going to attempt to remember that and use it!

Lost_and_Tired

I totally agree. I have been trying to do the same.

E (The Third Glance)

I love this piece. I actually wrote something similar recently (for what I’m calling “Autistic April”) called “Assume Good Intentions” – it drives me crazy that most people assume that when someone says something that’s a little off from their preferred existence (one that is invisible until revealed, mind, so you can’t mind-read) they assume you’re coming from an incredibly awful place of hate. That’s just SO WRONG! Nearly everyone has good intentions. They’re coming from a place of compassion, or at least, a place of good. Let it be that way, and everyone would learn and do better. Plus the world would be a better place. 🙂

Lost_and_Tired

Amen 🙂

Jenn50

Agreed. We don't get hysterical when someone says "My son is diabetic" so why "autistic"? If you break down the word from its roots, it means "Pertaining to the self" which is an extremely apt description of my daughter, in many ways. She's also cute, smart, and a heck of a swimmer. But let's face it: when I refer to her as autistic, I'm usually explaining some aspect of her behaviour, or our lives. As in, "Yes, I do have bags under my eyes. I have an autistic daughter." or "No, she doesn't really look people in the eyes, or speak. She's autistic." I swear, some people are just looking for something to be offended by.
And as to the "Merry Christmas" thing….I'm not telling you that you MUST celebrate my holiday. I'm wishing you happiness at a time that is meaningful to me. If you choose to take offense at that, you must be a very angry, defensive person, just looking for a reason to be angry.

Lost_and_Tired

It\’s amazing how many people get offended. They react like I\’m trying to insult them. Frustrating:-(

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