Something I have been seeing more and more of is the word “autism” or “autistic” being used in a bad connotation. The word “retard” or “retarded” was frequently used inappropriately, and now it’s this.
The number of people I have seen calling their friends “autistic” for making a funny face/noise, acting stupidly or generally just doing something out of the “ordinary” is disgusting. I have seen educated people in their 20’s using it to mock someone, and quite frankly, it’s just not on.
Do people not have any understanding of what the word autism means? Or do they lack any empathy that they just don’t care?
Unlike many people, I began to understand what autism meant when I was about 6 or 7 when I was told that my younger brother was diagnosed with it.
One of my friends remembers me telling her that my brother was autistic. She said that she imagined him sitting down with a little easel and a paintbrush, thinking he was about to be the next Vincent Van Gough.
My parents tried their best to explain what autism was. However, I began to learn and understand what it was, and what it meant for our family, as I grew up.
I understood that it meant that my brothers first word ,”wow”, was a big deal. We were scared that he would never talk.
I understood that his second word, which was my name, was an even bigger deal.
I understood that it meant not being able to tease him the way my big sister did to me.
I understood that it meant tantrums and being woken up in the middle of the night were inevitable; but it would get better.
I understood that it meant planning absolutely everything, even a trip to the shop. Anything out of routine would be very distressing for him.
I understood that travelling in a car, train, plane or bus would lead to a tantrum as it made him extremely anxious.
I understood that only one parent would be able to attend school plays, confirmations and graduations.
I understood that when we shared a room, and I would tell him about my day every night before we went to bed, that I wouldn’t get a response on how his day was.
I understood that our family wouldn’t be “normal” (whatever that is, if it even exists!) and that things would run a bit differently.
From growing up with a brother with autism I have understood that being empathetic and patient with those living with any kind of disability is really the least that we can all do.
Many people complain that the world has gone too politically correct. In some ways, maybe it has. However, it really doesn’t take much to not use a word when it is not appropriate.
Don’t mock a word that brings a huge number of struggles for the people that suffer with it. There’s thousands of words out there. Pick up a dictionary and use an appropriate one.
“Most comedy is based on getting a laugh at somebody else’s expense. And I find that that’s just a form of bullying in a major way. So I want to be an example that you can be funny and be kind, and make people laugh without hurting somebody else’s feelings”
Be kind to everyone,
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