As someone who is part of the autism community, you have probably already heard the common phrase, “If you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism.” It means that no two people on the spectrum (or off the spectrum!) are exactly the same. It means that another person will not always feel the same way you do about certain situations. It means that each person has a different opinion.
And yet, I am constantly hearing — whether it is in a group or a forum or in person — the word “we” to describe personal experiences with autism. I have come across so many statements:
“We as autistics do not like to be called ‘people with autism.’”
“We feel as though our autism is a part of who we are.”
“We don’t want any therapy for our autistic traits.”
“We hate that autism organization.”
While these statements may hold true for some, they do not hold true for all. And to use the word “we” implies that they do. The use of the word “we” may confuse those who are not familiar with autism, or the differences each person has.
I am tired of coming up right after you and having to correct the statement that all people on the autism spectrum feel that way. I have grown tired of trying to explain to others that I might not feel the same way. I am tired of explaining to people that I really don’t care whether I “have autism” or “am autistic.” Maybe you don’t want any therapies for the social deficits, but I really would like to be able to understand a full conversation with someone without misinterpreting what they say. And perhaps you hate that autism organization. But I don’t. I may dislike certain aspects, but I don’t hate people who are trying to help me. And while I feel that my autism is a part of who I am, that does not mean everyone else does.
I constantly use the disclaimer: I can’t speak for everyone. I can only speak for myself.
I ask you, from one person on the autism spectrum to another, to please stop speaking on my behalf. By all means, please feel free to advocate for yourself. But instead of using the word “we,” just use the word “I.”