Monday, 3 December 2007

How many labels?

Bonnie made a comment ‘It bothers me when people refer to my "autistic" son. My son has autism, but it does not define him.’

The labels 'autism' and 'autistic' come from the Greek work autos, meaning self. Used since 1943

Is C autistic, or does he have autism? Or is he just C? I tend to only use his label when trying to access a service. I say he is autistic. He is of course more than just a label. But sometimes they have their uses.

We all use labels. What’s my label? Which one should I choose? Which one is me?

I’m a mother
I’m a daughter
I’m a sister
I’m an aunt
I’m a niece
I’m a cousin
I’m a friend
I’m a blogger!
I’m a campaigner
I’m a negotiator
I’m a volunteer worker
I’m a cook
I’m a cleaner
I’m a taxi driver
I’m a neighbour
I’m a reader
I’m a voter
I’m a secretary
I’m a lover (I do have my moments!)
I’m a personal shopper
I’m a customer
I’m a traveller
I’m an entertainer
I’m an accountant
I’m a doctor
I’m an artist
I’m a musician
I’m a poet!
I’m a negotiator
I’m a specialist
I’m a photographer
I’m a rug maker
I’m a babysitter
I’m a joker
I’m sure there are a few more!
How many names do you have?

Do labels define us? Are they useful?

Do you prefer Autism or Autistic?


BenefitScroungingScum said...

I think labels are useful, but used far too much these days too define us by wider society as value is placed on 'what' not 'who' a person is.
I personally would prefer autism, as someone has autism, rather than being autistic. BG

Anonymous said...

Each and every label describes us all in one way or another. I don't mind which term I use to describe Amy. She has autism. She is autistic. She is Amy.

I want to make people aware so her "label" is part of her.

Best wishes, Crystal xx

Anonymous said...

hi there,

my brother scotty has cerebral palsy and also autism.. so i understand where you are coming from in a way.. thank you for your sweet comment on my blog too... much appreciated!

d xx

Chris H said...

I'm whatever I want to be... at this moment in time. I think I prefer Autism... 'C' HAS Autism, he is still a person, just like I have anemia... I do not go around calling myself an Anemic person. Does that make sense? Why is it necessary to 'label' people at all???

Amanda said...

anemia is a definciency, diabetes is a disease...
autism, on the other hand, is not a deficiency or disease,it is a way to describe different neurological make up (autists brains are wired differently)
a pretty defining characteristic

Ari Ne'eman said...

Autism, as our friends in the medical community point out in a rare display of perfect accuracy, is pervasive. You can not remove the autism from the individual and still possess the same individual, any more than you could remove that person's gender. Saying an autistic or an autistic person makes sense, in that autism is a defining characteristic - not the sole one, by any means, but it is not something that you can ignore. And as you accurately point out, we have many defining characteristics that we freely acknowledge without the need for person-first terminology. If we truly are going to accept the autistic neurology and not just be aware of it, we have to modify our language to de-stigmatize the spectrum.

BBC said...

I don't think that Bonnie should let it bother her, it's just a word used to describe someone. I repeat, it's just a word, and I suppose better than 'retard'. So why get worked up about it?

"Do labels define us? Are they useful?"

For the most part, yes. We have to have some ways of defining us, as all your labels of you point out.

"Do you prefer Autism or Autistic?"

I had never used either word much before discovering your blog, and I won't be using them much in the future. I prefer to say 'mentally challenged' and let it go at that.

And if that offends anyone it's because they fail to see that we are all mentally challenged.

It's all a bunch ado about nothing, just relax and get some fresh air.

Interesting ballot box, but no place to check 'Everyone is'.

Anonymous said...

We use both terms - in fact we interchange them without really thinking about it.
But I really like Amanda and Ari's (above) take on the use of the terms.
Thanks Casdok for making us think!

buffalodick said...

Headway has been made. Autism is a term I never heard used in a wide spread way until the last 15yrs or so. Before that, anyone different was "retarded".

mjsuperfan said...

I don't mind which word...what I care about is the tone of voice of the person using it (or the tone of the writing, I suppose).

JLee said...

Interesting post. We all have many labels, so one thing definitely does not define us. I would come up with a list, but well, I'm just too lazy. lol

I think it's cool that one of the top 5 girls on "America's Next Top Model" had a form of autism and was surprised to learn how far she could go and push herself in the competition.

His Girl said...

Thank you for inspiring me to think about this more deeply. My question is, when referring to groups of children (I teach teachers and never know how to do this right)that need this distinction, how do I finish this sentence.....

"Whether you are working with children with autism or......"

I never want to say 'normal' children- I know that's offensive (even to a peabrain like me who knows nothing) but is there a better phrase than "or children without autism" ? It stumps me every time.

I'd love to know your take.

Thanks for stopping by my blog, by the way :)

Casdok said...

His girl, yes i have the same problem!! I suppose i tend to say 'other' children! Which proberly isnt right either!

Odat said...

I really try not to think in "labels"....I'm just me doing other things....

Jenn O'Neil said...

Hi Casdok
As usual another interesting post. I have so many labels for myself it would take far to long to list them all. I may do a post about this today. I think I prefer autistic but I don't really think of it as a "label" as much as a way that C sees the world. His brain is set up different then mine. My two boys brains are set up different then mine. Not better - just different.

Thanks for all the birthday wishes. So far being 40 doesn't feel any different than being 39!

M said...

Currently that label is VERY important to me. It gives closure to my mama instincts. Gives access to services. And explains to ignorant people why Liam is how he is.

That said autistic or has autism doesn't matter to me because *I* know it's just one of many labels. If someone referred to me as fibromyalgic (I don't even think that's a real term but go with me) I wouldn't be offended. It's true. I have fibromyalgia. It's part of who I am.

So why should I be offended, ashamed, or distressed about someone pointing out an aspect of Liam?

Labels are helpful things and just parts of people. I know LOTS of people have issues with labels and I can absolutely see why but for me? Labels don't bother me.

Of course the 'tone' thing is another one but someone could make the fact that Liam has blue eyes an ugly label if said incorrectly so it's all the same to me.

Amanda said...

his girl and casdok
we say autistic or NT (neurologically typical)

Amanda said...

and a third way to refer to a particular autistic - autist.

Maddy said...

An amoeba! Love the photo.

Christo Gonzales said...

you left out the most important one:


With or with out autism or a myriad of other things we are humans - with feelings and often times insensitive behaviour due to our awkwardness or lack of understanding....

Maddy said...

An amoeba! Love the photo.

Casdok said...

Oh yes! Im human! I forgot!

And thanks Amanda, i forgot the NT label. Not sure i like it though, so i dont use it much.

Amanda said...

yeah...seems rather silly sometimes
but when you are trying to differentiate (guess you could just say typical)

Casdok said...

Dosnt it! OK then, define typical!!! ;)

Amanda said...

when i meet a typical person I'll get back to you

Tera said...

how do I finish this sentence.....

"Whether you are working with children with autism or......"

I never want to say 'normal' children- I know that's offensive (even to a peabrain like me who knows nothing) but is there a better phrase than "or children without autism" ? It stumps me every time.

I often say "non-autistic people" or "non-disabled people" or "non-" whatever is appropriate at the time.

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Casdok said...

I have a new label!! Excellent! Thank you!

lime said...

i'm brunette
i'm short
i have brown eyes
i have wide feet
i'm asthmatic/i have asthma

i tend to think of it more in grammatical terms. although i do understand that when a person is different from the general population in some way the 'labelling' of the difference can either be expressed positively or negatively and can either seem liek a clarification or a curse. no matter how a person expresses it i tend to look at the intention behind the expression. is that person using the label to clarify or to belittle?

Janice Thomson said...

Labels give an immediate sense of separateness, of being different.
To say C is a child with autism is much more the truth than to say C is autistic. Though the difference may look slight it is not; the first grants him as still being a human being with maybe something wrong in his genes whereas the latter immediately gives the sense of different, of being abnormal. A woman with kidney disease, a man with a lack of knowledge in mathematical equations, a child with a missing a leg, a woman with a penchant for untidiness - these are all just human beings with something that is not working properly in their lives. But once we apply labels to them they become a separate entity - a one of 'those'. We all have a lack in some area of our life but we still are just human beings.
I think part of the problem lies in the fact that as humans we become lazy in our language and hence find it easier to label things rather than take the time to speak of them in proper terms.

Pat said...

Never forget above all you're YOU.

Cynthia said...

I am a SAHM, that seems to be the label that sticks when people ask what I do...That label is so much bigger than anyone gives it credit for.

Carrie Wilson Link said...

I say WHO CARES - I'm more concerned about the intent behind the label use, than the actual label. We're all indefinable!

Christy said...

I just wrote a post related to autism and I think you might find it interesting. I'm very excited about recent developments. =o)

Casdok said...

Carrie, autistic people themselves care, and we have to respect that.

Thanks Christy, not sure about that one as the study was done on such a small number. But will watch the developments with interest!

Don Mills Diva said...

Agree with the person who said Human. It's true we all have labels. I don't have an autistic child so I can't comment on whether that label is helpful but this has given me food for thought about the labels we all carry. Thanks!

katy said...

you only need one label
I am me

Tena Russ said...

What an appropriate time to tell you that my post on dog therapy and autism is up.

VAB said...

"Typically developing" is one way to describe kids without ASD, but I would favor "non-autistic" because many people who are not autistic have other differences that would make them atypical. Another approach, if you are talking about services, is to say, "non-designated" or something to that effect.

mommy~dearest said...

"I am what I am, and that's all that I am"

Jade said...

I'm going to expose myself for a moment and admit, even as a professional that works with this population on a daily basis, I have caught myself (and 95% of the time correct myself afterwards) using the phrase "Autistic Child or children". Its amazing how easy it is to label without meaning to! Especially since I am one who really tries not to place labels on others since I myself live a daily labeled life.

It is post like these that will keep us all on the up in up on how we address populations.

We are all individuals, plain and simple.

Holly Kennedy said...

I'd have to say, "I'm a work in progress" because I believe that best describes us all.

Vi said...

I'm a nutter. Not doubt about that one!

Anonymous said...

I prefer 'autistic'.
Why? Jim Sinclair has already worded it so much better than I can:

whimsical brainpan said...

"Do labels define us?"
Only if we let them.

"Are they useful?"

Ian Lidster said...

And you're also quite remarkable and brave and creative, and intelligent, and pretty and so much more.

Marla said...

Great post!

Jay said...

It's hard to exist without labels, but I think people should label themselves. I work in the field, and we veer away from 'autistic' and the like. It helps remind people that we are all more than just a dignosis or disorder.

michele_k said...

I say autistic because that's how J wants it and I feel no one has more right than him to decide how him and his disability should be addressed. He's said more than once, "I'm autistic and nothing is going to change that."

Drama Mama said...

My daughter has autism.

And frankly, her label has caused us nothing but grief lately...she has basically fallen off of the spectrum, but her old DX follows her around, and therefore, the private "NT" sector refuses to even let her apply for schools, organizations, etc.

Jodi said...

I prefer "has autism" over "autistic" just as I prefer "has Down syndrome" over "is Down syndrome" My son's disabilities are a part of who he is. They do not define "what" he is.

Anonymous said...

I am a pain in the ass... definitely a pain in the ass. ;)

DJ Kirkby said...

I think autism with it's Greek definition is perfect for us.

Oswegan said...

Some labels do define us I suppose.

There are some that I prefer over others.

It's an interesting thought.


belle said...

How about calling it a signpost rather than a label? Until my children received their diagnoses we couldn't get anyone to take their difficulties seriously. Once diagnosed their labels acted as signposts pointing people in the right direction and opened up all sorts of support for us. Lovely to see you on my blog by the way :o)

Unknown said...

More labels ....

I'm an individual
I'm me

A label is simply a label on the outside. It's what's on the inside that counts, and that is not a label, it's a whole person.

Rimshot said...

When I hear 'autistic' I can't help but think 'artistic'. They're just connected in my head. :-)

Anonymous said...

Being as how I'm not always as literate as I'd like, here's an essay that sums up why I think labels can be useful:

(as an odd postscript, I hate "neurotypical" because I think it defines nothing.)

Feeby Neko said...

You forgot one. You are also-... a beautiful person, from what I can tell of your writing.

macskadék said...

Labels, for me, are like facial features to those who can see and distinguish them. A set of labels give a general outlook of the person, but not describing him/her as a whole. Labels are good for dating site profiles, where you have to introduce yourself quickly, but meaningless in a deep conversation with a friend, because your friend already knows you to a different degree.

Meanwhile, all nouns are labels, as they all name something the person or object *is*. With nouns we give definitions, some clear, some fuzzier. (I recommend Ludwig Wittgenstein's works on language for that.)

And here's my list:

I'm a dyke, aspie (or autistic, for that matter), dyscalculic, weight acceptance supporter, liberal, daughter, woman, nerd, roleplaying gamer, vidder, blogger, cutter, internationalist, student. And probably some more, but those come to mind...

I think the "with" rhetoric separates a very important part of the person, and gives room to the false hope of "curation". (The same way that Autiemom [] thinks.)

KC's Blog said...

I love mommy dearests comment, "I am what I am, and that's all that I am" So true!

Mr. Ghost said...

Well now, you do know how stir up the comments.

Because of no previous family history, when I was born the Drs. told my mother I was a spontaneous mutation. Is that a haunted her until her death.

Casdok said...

Your poor mum, what an inseneitive thing to say. When my son was diagnosed the Drs were similar, but i think they are getting a bit better these days??