Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Labels – For Kids or Cans?

It's an ongoing debate, the one about labels and Autism. If you have a loved one who is on the Autism Spectrum you know exactly what I am talking about. Everyday there is something new written about it. Don't believe me? Go ahead and do a search each morning for the next week and check. You will be astounded at what you find and read. That's not what I am going to write about here today though. I want to share my experience with the Autism label.

Seventeen years ago when my daughter was diagnosed we were told she was “Autistic”. Not very person centered, but that was the times back then. Thank goodness the world has moved forward and now I would be told that she has “Autism”. What's the difference? Well, being told that she has Autism is telling me that she is still my dear, sweet, smart, beautiful, loving daughter who just so happens to have Autism. Being told that she is Autistic is telling me that my daughter is not at all who I thought she was and that she is now defined by this new label. My daughter happens to have Autism and she is fabulous.

Autism is a spectrum disorder and if you have seen one person with Autism you have seen just that! One person with Autism. Everyone is as different as the snowflakes that fall from a winter sky. No square pegs in rounds holes here, that is for certain. What does amaze me is the number of parents who like to add “very high functioning” to the explanation that their child has Autism. Oh you know them! They are the ones that stand up at conferences and introduce themselves by saying they have a child who has very, very, very, very, very, very, HIGH Functioning Autism (so HIGH you wonder why they even have to come to the conference to begin with) and then ask a question that leads you to think otherwise.

Well, I would like to leave off the “highs” and the “lows” when we get together to talk about advocating and supporting our loved ones with Autism. You may be asking yourself why, when they have such different needs. Not really! Our loved ones need the same type of services and supports. The level and delivery of those services and supports will be different depending on the individual of course. Autism is defined as a social and communication disorder. Those two difficulties are displayed in varying degrees throughout the Autism spectrum and therefore the support would be just as different, as would the delivery of services needed to offer support.

So keep it person centered when you are describing anyone who happens to have any type of special need. We need to stick together and leave those “sticky” labels for the cans!

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