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Why "Autism?"

Why do I feel it necessary to identify myself as “autistic?” Why not be satisfied knowing I’m “unique,” a “special snowflake,” or even simply “neurodiverse?”

Try thinking about autism as if it were a kind of physical movement. We’ll use a story to illustrate the analogy.

Giorgio loves to move. He’s constantly moving his body. He grows up isolated, alone with his hermetic family, free from social influences. All day long, he’s moving, shaking, and shimmying, and he’s getting tremendous joy and pleasure out of it. Nobody in his family is into it, unfortunately. From time to time, they even shout at him to calm down and quit it with all the squirming.

One day, he goes into town and overhears someone describing an athlete. What’s this? Athleticism? He finds an article about it, then watches his first sports video. Soccer players are moving all over the place. They look so happy! He tries it out.

Aaaaaand… nothing. Soccer’s not the thing for him. He practices, he learns, he finds other folks who identify as soccer players and tries to copy what makes them feel happy and at ease. No matter what he tries, it doesn’t fit.

Then someone who’s been watching him from the sidelines asks if he’s a dancer. “A dancer?” he exclaims. “Tell me more!” They’re just like you, the person replies. Or, rather, you’re just like them. In a lot of ways. You seem like a natural.

Giorgio makes haste to enter the term in the nearest Google search window. Dance. He hears the music as the first dance video he’s ever watched begins, and he’s instantly in love. The movements on screen speak directly to his heart. Dance. He watches performance after performance, transfixed. He’s up on his toes in front of the screen. He’s flailing his arms in new ways. He’s imitating and emulating and taking mental notes on moves he can make his won.

Months go by, and Giorgio blossoms. Dance! His family begins to watch with awe. Giorgio signs up for dance lessons, and the teacher sees a gem. Bachata, she tells him. Ballet. And you might like these moves from this dubstep dancer. And folks in Egypt have been experimenting with a new style of krunking, why don’t you give it a shot.

And a star is born.

So, now, do you see? Does it make a little more sense? Why is it not enough merely to know that I am Frankie and fabulous all in my own way?

It’s because of the head start of understanding that a label can give me. It’s because of the illumination I find in alignment there. I benefit from the learning that others have done, and by applying the wisdom they share to my own experience.

I’m more than different.

I’m autistic.

I’ve jumped forward many, many steps on my journey by embracing the gift of that knowledge.


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