Saturday, February 17, 2018

Autistic or Person with Autism

“It is impossible to affirm the value and worth of an Autistic person without recognizing his or her identity as an Autistic person. Referring to me as “a person with autism,” or “an individual with ASD” demeans who I am because it denies who I am.” LydiaBrown from an EXCELLENT posting on the ASAN website

In a recent course I taught on DIR Floortime, I was asked about my use of the word “autistic” instead of using a phrase like “person with autism.”  This comes up in just about every course I teach.  I have found that if I do not explain it, I end up with some people in the course upset with me and thinking I am behind-the-times or disrespectful.

I did not feel I explained myself well in the course last week, so I wanted to take a moment to share my thoughts on this. 

While the focus of my professional career is on helping people emerge from whatever is holding them back and/or distressing them and I understand the disabling aspects of mental health, developmental, and psychosocial challenges, it is paramount to me to always hold a deep respect for who the person is…fully accepting and respecting their identity.  I believe the goal of intervention is to foster growth and development and to help individuals find ways to resolve or work around what is disabling them, holding them back, or distressing them.  But, the role of intervention should never be to change the identity of who the person is.  There are too many horrible things in our history where treatment focused on changing the identity of the person.  Too many shattered lives because of treatment focused on making someone look “normal.”

 My concern with person-first language is that it does not provide the affirmation that we all need about who we are.  There is a risk that the autistic person may feel broken, “less than” and/or generally not accepted if we don't directly accept their identity.    So, I get worried that well-intentioned first-person language actually too often “back-fires” and makes the person feel like they cannot be who they are which can have devastating effects. 

So, my preference is to use “autistic” most often and then provide insight into why I do this when I see negative or uneasy responses.   There is no simple answer here and I can create a good argument on either side of this language usage issue.  But I wanted to share why I lean towards the use of "autistic" more often. 

I urge you to read some writings from autistic self-advocates on this issue.  The one I quoted from above is excellent and I strongly recommend it.  When in doubt, listening to the voices of self-advocates is always where I will land.  

PS. While the use of words is important, I think the focus of our energy needs to be on taking the stigma away from the word “autistic.”  That way no one feels like they need to avoid it.  That is a huge societal issue, but it is the deeper change that will truly resolve this word usage debate. 

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Developmental or Behavioral...a thoughtful perspective...

I am sharing Maude LeRoux's blog post here.  Her discussion of developmental and relational approaches as compared to behavioral is very thoughtful and insightful.  It is worth a read.

Click here to view Maude's blog post. 

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Nagwa Khedr: The Woman Introducing Egypt To A New Autism Treatment Method

 Read the article by clicking here.  Another one of ICDL's Expert Training Leaders making a difference!  

Monday, November 13, 2017

Relationships Matter...

Relationships matter.  If you have not seen it before, check out the Harvard Adult Development Study.  Very interesting. 

Click here to view the TED Talk. 

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

2017 ICDL Conference in Bangkok

I am so excited about our conference coming up in Bangkok on November 9th and 10th.  The conference is filling up nicely, but there is still space if you want to register to join us.  Great speakers including Floortime experts from Thailand, Indonesia, and the USA.  The 50% off early bird ends in just a couple of days, so now is the time to register if you have not done so yet.  We want you to be there, so we have made this conference incredibly cheap.  The 2-day early bird price is only $90.  Don't wait much longer to decide or you might miss out!  See you in Bangkok! Click here for more information...

Thursday, August 3, 2017

New Autism Focused Episode on Friday

We have no idea what the episode will end up being like, but I am excited that a DIR school was used as a primary focus for understanding autism. Please check it out. Thank you to the Rebecca School for being willing to share your staff, kids, and school with the world. There is always some risk in that, but it so very important that we take that risk and share what we know to be true about human development with the world.  Please check it out! (For those reading this in an e-mail, please click the "Jeff's Blog" link to watch the trailer for the VICE episode.)