Let’s All Strive to Move from Autism Awareness to Autism Acceptance!
By Judith E. Lipson, M.A., LPC
I hope that one of the reasons that you follow my work is to continue to understand various ‘differences’ from a more expansive view. This article is about autism. It’s when we understand the “why” of something that we can truly learn to accept it for what it is. Autism is not a condition to cure, but rather it is a series of conditions that causes or allows the individual to interact with their inner and outer environment differently. Sometimes this brings about challenges, but that’s most frequently due to our rigid societal expectations and assumptions. Let’s all learn to recognize the aspects, and see the gifts that are part of this spectrum, so that we no longer view it as a “disorder”.
Q: What is autism?
A: Autism isn’t one condition. It’s a collection of related conditions that are so intertwined and so impossible to pick apart, that professionals have stopped trying. If you only check one or two boxes, then they don’t call it autism, they call it something else. Here’s a graphic of the various aspects. Remember that autism is a spectrum condition. Some individuals with autism (sometimes referred to as autistics) have less of one of these issues, or it may no longer be apparent. According to the DSM-5, autism is a life-long condition that can ease in intensity and life-challenging ways, but it doesn’t go away. And remember: If you’ve met one person with autism, then you’ve met ONE person with autism.
Q: Is the person ‘an individual with autism’ or ‘autistic’?
A: That’s actually a good question and you will get differing responses. Initially we referred to these folks as autistics. Then perspectives about disabilities changed and it was considered most appropriate to see them as individuals who are not defined by autism, but rather who have autism (recognizing that they have many other facets to define them). I work with a lot of folks on the spectrum, from many age groups, and am frequently told that they recognize how autism informs their daily lives, and thus very positively and proudly define themselves as autistic (along with their other descriptors of spouse, parent, employee, artist, writer, etc.)
Q: I hear that it is harder to identify girls and women on the spectrum.
A: It does seem to be more difficult since females present differently than males.
All the literature, clients that I talk to, and my experiences with my own clients acknowledge that recognizing and diagnosing autism in those who are born female can be more challenging. Some believe it’s because many girls seem to intrinsically find it easier to mimic peers as well as others’ socialization. Additionally, they are less likely to have the same types of areas of interests as their male counterparts, so their identity on the spectrum is less recognized.
My intention in this section is to provide you with a variety of links that can better inform you. I hope you find this information beneficial. I encourage you to reach out with questions, and to let me know about any professionals that you have met who are adept at diagnosing ASD in the AFAB (assigned female at birth) population.