Friday, July 29, 2011

Labels: Autism

Labels are useful. They're shorthand for what we want to communicate and yet, they often obscure what is really being said. We say things like, "oh, he's schizophrenic," "she's bipolar," "he's an alcoholic," "she's anorexic," "he's blind" and the meaning seems to get conveyed, but does it? After all, that's not all the person is. It's something they have been diagnosed with, perhaps struggling with. It's a medical term, but it does not encompass who and what that person is in their entirety.

When I hear someone describe another person as "autistic" I understand that person has been given a diagnosis of autism, but I don't presume to know much more about them. For example, I won't know if this particular person diagnosed with autism can speak, read or write. They may have other issues, physical impairments or other diagnoses added. These may further illuminate, but the labels begin to overwhelm the actual person.

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