Embracing the Label of Autism


With the autism rate now "officially" at 1 in 110 (the unofficial rate is much higher), many find it surprising that so many around us are affected. Autism is a "spectrum disorder," meaning there are varying degrees and severity to the condition, with a number of cases going undetected. Awareness and screening have greatly improved in the last ten years, but we still have a long way to go.

I have often used Daryl Hannah as an example to battle those who stand on the platform that autism is not "curable." I contend that by "cure," I mean a functional and happy life, without requiring institutions or drugs, while still needing protection and support from family, friends, and caregivers. There are MANY "typical" persons in our society that need protection and support, but who are completely dysfunctional. They are called typical only because they are undiagnosed.

I would use Temple Grandin to prove my case, but unfortunately, many of those same persons who are self-proclaimed autism experts aren’t even familiar with who Dr. Temple Grandin is or what her achievements are. 

There is the argument that Temple Grandin has high functioning autism. High functioning means an IQ of 80 or above. This supports the notion that most of the people diagnosed with ASD (which includes Asperger’s Syndrome), are in fact, high functioning. The bottom line is that great results should be expected of, and provided for, all of those on the autism spectrum. 

In past generations, people often kept journals or diaries so it’s easy to compare their characteristics with those that would be diagnosed with autism today. The dark label of autism and the stigma that goes with it are devastating to the healing process. Once we embrace the beauty and innocence of autism so that people no longer fear the label, we will all begin to look objectively through the branches of our own family trees. We should recognize the idiosyncrasies in our own genetics are directly tied to the titles our children now have.

With a significant amount of research under my belt, I now find myself wondering about three of my own immediate family members, as well as myself. It would certainly justify the issues in all of our lives.

It would also connect the misunderstandings, relationship patterns, and eccentric histories of a large number of my ancestors. My family tree encompasses members of the Magna Charta, various different countries’ royalty (both well remembered and notorious), religious crusaders, and many more who led anything but typical lifestyles.

Finding someone to sit down to hash all of this through who possesses the credentials to give appropriate labels to my colorful ancestors is another story. I would feel selfish in knowing I took up anyone’s time while a tremendous portion of our population remains undiagnosed and falling through the cracks on waiting lists for proper services.

Even if we were all diagnosed with autism, is our culture ready for the tsunami of mental, emotional, and neurological accommodations?

Awareness, acceptance, treatment, funding, education, compassion, understanding, laws, facilities, accommodating school programs, and transportation services all need quick re-evaluations and autism must be a top priority. Our children are here now and deserve a higher quality of life.

Perhaps if we would all seek out our own diagnosis, when our children are labeled, they would not be alone. I consider myself fortunate to be a part of an autistic child’s world. Life is enhanced, miracles are witnessed and I learn about my own abilities and disabilities each day. I am a much better person for being a part of autism and I am thankful for it.

My son is part of a pivotal influence group that has already changed the course of history for the better. I am teaching him to have pride in his autism label and demonstrating that there is no shame in it.

By no means do I intend to marginalize or dimish the challenges of autism, particularly those associated with “lower-functioning” individuals. However, autism is autism and those who have it are all in the hurricane. Some just happen to be in the eye-wall, while others experience the outer feeder bands.

It’s important to note that until the 1940s, autism was mistakenly categorized as various other disorders such as schizophrenia. Dr. Leo Kanner noted the uniquely distinct patterns of behaviors, while at the same time, Dr. Hans Asperger came up with the name of “Autism.” 

I have compiled a list of my own, comprised of those who have, or are suspected of having some form of ASD. My hope is that the negative stigma associated with our children’s diagnoses would be lifted once and for all and those who are still here would come forward and speak out until our kids are able to. In no particular order, here they are:

Daryl Hannah, Peter Howson, Luke Jackson, Heather Kuzmich, Virginia Woolf, William Shakespeare, Hans Christian Anderson, Goethe, Isaac Asimov, Craig Nicholls, Alexander Graham Bell, Gary Numan, Tim Page, Dawn Prince-Hughes, Vernon L. Smith, Satoshi Tajiri, Raymond Thompson, Liane Holliday Willey, Michelle Dawson, Temple Grandin, Caiseal Mor, Hikari Oe, Dylan Scott Pierce, Jim Sinclair, Amanda Baggs, Lucy Blackman, Alonzo Clemons, Tony DeBlois, Christopher Knowles, Leslie Lemke, Jonathan Lerman, Jason McElwain, Thristan Mendoza, Tito Mukhopadhyay, Derek Paravicini, Kim Peek, James Henry Pullen, Matt Savage, Birger Sellin, Henriett Seth, Daniel Tammet, Richard Wawro, Stephen Wiltshire, Napoleon Bonaparte, George Washington, John Quincy Adams, Andrew Jackson, Andrew Johnson, Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, William Taft, Harry Truman, Ludwig Van Beethoven, Elvis Presley, Peter the Great, Wilhelm II, Alexander the Great, Isaac Newton, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Jeremy Bentham, Socrates, Henry Ford, Bill Gates, Robin Williams, Marilyn Monroe, Clark Gable, Charles Dickinson, Jane Austen, Béla Bartók, Ludwig von Beethoven, Anton Bruckner, Henry Cavendish, Emily Dickinson, Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein, Henry Ford, Kaspar Hauser, Oliver Heaviside, Thomas Jefferson, Carl Jung, Franz Kafka, Wasily Kandinsky, H P Lovecraft, Ludwig II, Charles Rennie Mackintosh, Gustav Mahler, Friedrich Nietzsche, Bertrand Russell, George Bernard Shaw, Richard Strauss, Nikola Tesla, Henry Thoreau, Alan Turing, Mark Twain, Vincent Van Gogh, Matthew Laborteaux, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Isaac Asimov, Hans Asperger, John Denver, Glenn Gould, Jim Henson, Alfred Hitchcock, Howard Hughes, Andy Kaufman, L S Lowry, Charles Schulz, Andy Warhol, Woody Allen, Tony Bennett, Bob Dylan, Joseph Erber, Bobby Fischer, Bill Gates, Al Gore, Jeff Greenfield. David Helfgott, Garrison Keillor, John Motson, John Nash, Michael Palin, Keanu Reeves, Oliver Sacks, James Taylor, Dezi Carden, Dan Aykroyd, Shannon Bull, Louis IV of France, Catherine the Great, Leonardo da Vinci, and Peter Tork.

If being diagnosed with autism would put me in such great company, PLEASE, label me autistic!

One Response to Embracing the Label of Autism

  1. Who were the psychiatrists/psychologists/pediatricians who diagnosed Shakespeare, Socrates and other historical geniuses as “autistic”?

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Did You Know?

  • * In 1970, Autism affected 1 out of 10,000 children
  • * Autism now affects 1 out of 88 children
  • * Autism affects 1 in 54 boys
  • * 1.7 million Americans have some form of autism
  • * 4 out of 5 autistic children are boys

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