Self-Identification

Back when we first decided to get age appropriate books to explain G’s disability to him, I went with books on Asperger Syndrome because it was technically correct.  G took to them very well and easily identified with the character descriptions.  Before we knew it, he’d incorporated Asperger Syndrome into his identity, his sense of self, and was very proud of what made him different.

Only a few months later, I read that they were removing Asperger Syndrome from the DSM and were replacing it with the broader category of Autism.  No big deal, except I’d just taught my son about himself using a different term.  I worried how my very factually precise little boy was going to handle changing the name when he’d just learned about that part of himself.  Then I worried about silly things, like if people would think he was elitist because he used AS instead of Autism. 

Since the change was a couple years off (and I very much appreciate the advance notice, I wish I got two years warning more often)  I decided not to do anything.  But I set about practicing myself as I found I’d become set in my own rut.  Try switching from saying you’re filling your car with gas to filling your car with petrol for a week and see how it feels. (flip that if you’re european)  It’s the same exact liquid – give or take some additives depending on your region.  It shouldn’t be a big deal, but saying petrol takes effort until you get used to it.

I’ve been practicing on this blog, using autism about half the time, and practicing in my conversations with other people.  Just recently at his teacher conference, where G was present to discuss his goals, I disputed an expectation typical for all third graders because G was, “an autistic seven year old so we’ll need to break the expectation down into more manageable steps.”  I looked at G to see what he thought of that and assumed it went over his head because he was unfazed.  We also have a book, “Different Like Me:  My Book of Autism Heroes,” that G adores.  He brought it into school when he was talking to his class about what made him different and they read a page once a week.  His classmates think it’s cool and it makes him very proud to be who he is. 

Because of all this, what I thought would be a Very Big Deal was really a non-issue.  Hubby is volunteering with the adaptive ski program this year and has a lesson scheduled next week.  We went out for ice cream yesterday (are we the only family that craves ice cream in the winter?) and while we were chatting I asked about the particular disability of his client.  He stated simply that the client, “is autistic.”  Upon hearing that, G said with excitement, “He’s autistic?  I have autism too!” 

Time to check one more worry of my list.

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Published in: on December 19, 2010 at 11:07 am  Leave a Comment  

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