Getting a label

Let’s get one thing straight, there may be lots more diagnosed auties today but auties always existed. Many of them were ‘accomodated’ by society as ‘eccentrics’, ‘hobos’, ‘bag ladies’ and ‘simple folk’. Autie families barely noticed the ‘wierdness’ of their relatives because they ‘just took after so and so’. When one was a throw back to some obscure earlier relative once upon a time, then they stood out- sort of what’s ‘wrong’ with you. Those more severely effected were locked away in asylums. Today we have labels, political correctness and, sometimes, funding. We also have a more demanding society, a more in your face, watch, wait, expect, overcontrolling, progressively urban, educated, qualified, literate and multitrack society of 2.5 kids instead of the more usual 10 where an autie kid or two probably got lost to half bring up its feral self.

The professional world has also grown. Strings of professionals have found niches in the field of ‘ASDs’ from music therapists, to chiropractors, from naturopaths to opthamologists, from Dolphin programs to aversion ‘therapies’, from physiotherapists to educators, from spiritual healers to psychologists and the ever present category of psychiatrist. And of course, let us not forget that strange group of ever increasing generations of ‘translators’ made up of adults with ‘ASDs’ who have written books, given lectures, workshops or helped councel and advise parents, non-autie professionals and sometimes mentor or advocate on behalf of their sometimes more challenged or newly diagnosed peers. (oh yes, by the way, for those who are interested I’m back doing on-line consultancy for those who need me- see www.donnawilliams.net under ‘about autism’).

For some parents and people with ‘ASDs’ getting a label is sometimes an entry into a new social world, a belonging. For others it is a separation from the non-autie world, an alienation, even a shattering of dreams and expectations and that’s not just the parents. There are some older children, teenagers and adults who have been helped a lot by getting a label and good counselling about what that label means with emphasis on ability, inclusion, on personhood and equality in the face of difference. For others getting a label has rocked their world, causing detachment from those they once were able to relate to, withdrawal from activities which once gave belonging and pleasure. And its not so simple as poo-pooing these folk as though they just fear being ‘abnormal’, ‘disabled’ or ‘like those people with AUTISM’.

It can be something much simpler. In turning up the lights on being a label, someone who is monotracked, capable of pinpointed obsessional focus to the exclusion of all else, suddenly illuminating themselves as a label, means they lose sight of that most important but mostly assumed and never spoken of other label – being a person, a human being, among other diverse and unique human beings. Yes, that world of human beings does have a kind of ‘normality’ drive sometimes, like a big wave of media made reality which can make us feel we are the only version of wierd there is, but I promise you, I’ve had the luck and misfortune of watching many wonderfully wierd and diverse people and many, in fact most of them were not on the autistic spectrum. Some were comfortable with being unique and part of life’s colorful pallette of behavioural mutations, others were simply oblivious and assuming, for all kinds of diverse reasons. Some were defensive in a ‘them’ and ‘us’ drama. Some were the most welcoming people I was lucky to meet. The thing is, when we get all caught up in our differentness to the point we get precious or defensive about it, we lose our freedom, our opportunity and part of the adventure.

So my label is just a word and I am a person.

With warm feelings… Donna *)

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