Autism is just a label (nope) - Unapologetically Autistic

Autism is just a label (nope)

autism is just a label

Autism is just a label. Ever heard that one? I know I have. I once even heard it from someone who's now perpetually screeching about feminism and how she wishes middle-aged straight white men would accept the fact it's wrong to discriminate against people because of their sexuality, colour, or gender. 

The irony is spectacular, no?

Anyway, if you think autism is just a label the only thing you're doing, other than exercising your inalienable right to freedom of speech, is demonstrating your ignorance to anyone who cares to listen.

What galls me is the very same kind of people who'll condescendingly tell me "Don't let your autism define you... you're so much more than a label" are the very same people who moisten their gussets about the intersectionality of fuck-knows how many marginalised groups whose self-identification is apparently "valid" because it doesn't force them to confront their own prejudices and behaviours.

Autism is just a label...

In the same way any word we use to identify anything is "just a label". It's a word allowing us to categorise information (about people).

But then to stop dead in your tracks and baldly claim there's no meaning beyond that, no semantics attached to it is ignorant in the extreme. 

The fact is, anyone formally diagnosed as autistic presents in a way such that their autistic traits cause significant and substantial difficulties in everyday life. It's not the case you sashay on into your GP's surgery feeling a bit under the autistic weather and waltz out with a diagnosis. Moreover, those of us who've agonised over self-diagnosis haven't casually decided we're a tad spectrummy after watching a couple of YouTube videos.

No, we've woken up every fucking day of our lives wondering why of all the planets we could have been dropped on, we get dropped on this one, the wrong one.

I am autistic.

That label, if you care to peel it off and look underneath, hints at an entire spectrum of neurological, cognitive, and behavioural differences between me and 98%+ of the human race.

If you understand what the label is telling you, then you'll realise when you think I'm being "rude" I'm not (because I cannot be rude if I don't understand the game I'm supposed to be playing), you'll finally grok your "obvious" hints and allusions are nothing of the sort (why the fuck can't you say what you mean and have done with it?), and you'll maybe get it into your thick head a lack of eye-contact does not imply dishonesty or shiftiness (if I'm looking at you trying to fathom what your expression is telling me, then I'm not listening to you, because it's overwhelming).

Finally, just to upset a few people...

Parent's who refuse to get their kids assessed because they don't want them "labelled" are guilty of child abuse

Harsh words, I know, but the truth hurts.

You don't help your autistic child by withholding a diagnosis, and your aversion to the social stigma of the condition is cowardice.

As a parent, you want the best for your child.

Of that, I have no doubt.

The mistake you're making is to think you somehow know what's best for your offspring, simply because you are the parent. 

This is a non-sequitur, and we have paediatricians and other specialists for this very reason. Parenthood does not give you supernatural powers or magical ways of knowing when it comes to your children.

And if you're neurotypical and have an autistic child, painful as this is, you must understand you do not and can not understand him or her.

And you never will.

You know what I do in my spare time?

I informally mentor young autistic adults because their parents realise they have no clue what's going on in their heads, and I might have a better chance of doing so because I'm autistic myself.

Autism does define us

At least, to some extent.

It's what we are, just as surely as different people will allow themselves to be defined by their race, gender, and sexuality.

Look... I almost certainly know more about autism clinically than anyone who's not a specialist in the field.

definitely know more about living with autism than anyone who's not autistic, clinical expert or not.

If you're not autistic, your opinion on what being autistic means to us and how it affects us isn't just irrelevant — it's uninformed.

Don't presume to tell me and other autistics how we should define ourselves.

It's crass, ignorant, and does nothing to endear you to us.


Jon McCulloch, The Evil Bald Genius

Author, speaker, business owner, and autism advocate

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I'm Jon. Husband, father, business owner, author, speaker, and outspoken advocate for autism awareness. I struggled my whole life knowing I was different, but not knowing how or why. I was finally diagnosed in 2019, but had informally self-identified as autistic for a couple of years before that. I live on a remote farm in Ireland with my wife and an assortment of cats and dogs.