I Am Not 'With Autism.' I Am Autistic
With child, with a broom, with her husband, with a hat, with the flu. What do all these imply? A temporary condition, a choice, or the result of something that has happened to you such as choosing to have a child or being pregnant, picking up a broom, getting married, donning a hat or contracting a virus. You give birth, you stop using the broom, you may get divorced, you can take off a hat and recover from the flu. However, I was born autistic.
Autism has defined every aspect of my life since my first breath. I was very quiet as a baby and didn’t speak until about 4. I was and still am extremely shy. I have to sleep with earplugs, a weighted blanket, two blackout curtains layered, zero ambient light, and Google Home’s rain or storm relaxation sound on to drown out any noise that may bleed through my earplugs. I have a very sensitive nervous system and it is tied with my heart, as in it’s an organ I absolutely cannot live without. My neurology is neurodiverse. I’m autistic.
While humans have an endoskeleton throughout the majority of our body, our mind or brain, the consciousness that is us, lives inside our skull. Some think this can be considered a sort of exoskeleton, one we are protected by and essentially exist in. In a way, that is true. The brain is the headquarters of the entire body’s neurological system. If I were able to remove my Autism I would be removing the very thing that allows me to live, to be me. I cannot set it down like a broom, nor is it something contracted, or temporary. I will have it until death.
When we first started to use person-first terminology, it was to help destigmatize those with conditions like HIV/AIDS, because having a disease is not a reflection on who they are as a person. HIV/AIDS and other diseases are not a choice, nor do they make someone a victim to be pitied. When we cure a disease, the same person remains because it was not part of the person to begin with.
Meanwhile, my autistic neurology is not something I caught, nor is it a disease that needs to be cured. It’s who I am. The way I pause for a few seconds before I answer a question and can’t make eye contact so I seem reserved and shy, that’s autism. Autism is why I need a small chest of sensory items to go to sleep. My atypical neurology is why I couldn’t speak at the March for Our Lives; it overwhelmed my nervous system and I went nonverbal. It’s why I crave to stim by chewing hard candy or pin rolling my fingers. You cannot remove my autism without removing who I am. I am autistic.