This is the final part in the “I Think I Might Be Autistic” series.
In addition to the new set of questions that my diagnosis raised, it’s also forced me to think about my identity and how I want to own being autistic. I wrote a bit about identity very early on in this blog. At the time I challenged myself to revisit the subject in the future, after I’d had more time to educate myself and think about the labels I’ve been given.
In the past couple of months, I’ve been using autistic and aspie interchangeably to refer to myself. Not because the DSM-V will be eliminating Asperger’s but because it feels more comfortable. I’ve also been learning about the social model of disability, which says that disability is created by the way society is organized rather than by a person’s differences.
My previous concept of disability had centered on the medical model, which says that people are disabled by their differences, which need to be fixed. Because I was resistant to the idea of being seen as someone who is “less” or “defective” I was resistant to thinking of myself as disabled. The social model of disability has given me a much more positive way of thinking about disability. It looks at a person’s disability and asks what kind of supports that person needs, not what’s wrong with them.
The social model feels like a good fit for Autistic people. I don’t want to be fixed but there are some things that would make my life easier.
Learning to be Autistic
Since I’ve begun blogging, I’ve noticed that I have a constantly evolving sense of self. The more I write and read and talk with other people, the more my understanding of who I am shifts and solidifies.
Little by little, I’m learning what it means to be autistic.
You may notice that I generally use “small a” autistic rather than “capital A” Autistic in my writing. That’s intentional, not an oversight.
Autistic refers to Autistic people as a cultural group. For example, I consider my blog Autistic space–a safe space where Autistic people can gather to share information about how we experience the world. I make an effort to participate in Autistic advocacy events online, like the recent flashblogs. But I don’t feel ready yet to be an advocate in the sense that many other Autistic people are.
The funny thing is, I never thought about being advocate at all until recently. I started blogging as a way to process this huge new self-discovery. Writing has always been my primary way of processing. Big thing to process equals a need to write hundreds of thousands of words in response.
As I got involved in the online blogging community, I slowly began to realize that like it or not, I am an advocate. That’s something that I’ve come take very seriously. Words have consequences. We can lob them like rocks or wield them like a scalpel; we can use them to soothe or incite. Mostly I want to use them to understand and to promote acceptance–self-acceptance and acceptance of Autistic people in general.
I feel like I’m still learning to be autistic. This is personal for me right now. Perhaps this is my way of being an advocate–the constant dissecting and researching and writing and explaining and oversharing.
At some point I’d like to also feel comfortably Autistic, but for now, discovering my “small a” autistic self is an all-consuming process.