Sunday, 12 February 2017

Is or has?

I see a lot of posts on social media that spark the inner-debate in me over how you describe/ introduce your child's special needs.  Do you say "John HAS autism" or "John IS autistic". (Btw, my son's name is not John).

Of course there is no right or wrong (I don't think), it's personal choice.

But so as not to cause offence to those with autism, tirelessly campaigning for acceptance and challenging ignorance and stereotypes, I wanted to explain why I use IS not HAS.

My children both have autism, they are both autistic.  I imagine, as I have not given it an enormous amount of thought previously, that I have on occasion used a mixture of has and is.  With DS I think I have always said he IS autistic.  Because, for me, he is.  Infact I've been saying it alot longer than he's been diagnosed. Because it is a simple matter of fact. He absolutely IS.

He is also a boy. He is also 8 years old. He is also tall for his age.  To me, these are things he is.  That doesn't mean they define him.  He is a boy - so what?  He can dress as a princess, wear nail varnish, play cars, trains, build, dig in the mud, obsess about Minecraft, paint, bake cakes, sing - his boyness doesn't define him or limit his choices in any way. But biologically speaking he is a boy. Fact.

Similarly, he IS 8 years old.  What does that mean?  We have a multitude of charts and scales that tell us what an average (ha!) 8 year old should/ could do.  Some are chess champions, some are struggling with CVC words still, some can read Harry Potter (thinking of my DD!) while others cannot ride a bike. Others can swim lengths & lengths, excel at dancing, have a natural affinity with animals.  Being 8 years old doesn't define him, but it is biologically something that he IS.

So I guess I kinda feel the same about Autism.  It is something he IS.  He IS autistic. ( I hate the term Autistic Spectrum Disorder - I freely admit I do find that offensive).  But he is autistic.  I don't feel he 'has' autism. To me that sounds like a disease, an illness or an apology. None of which I want to give. For me, to say he 'has' autism, implies he 'got' it from somewhere. That he has acquired it, through environmental factors.  He hasn't.  It is emphatically my opinion that you do not acquire autism.  There are a great many things that 'look' like or present similarly to autism (Attachment Disorder for one..., PTSD, Anxiety Disorders to name a few others) that can be acquired environmentally.  Over production of cortisol in the brain due to early childhood trauma can result in the brain being re-wired disfunctionally.  But none of these things are autism.  Autism, quite simply, is always there. It is a neurological state of being.  It IS. And I can't reconcile this with the concept of 'has'. To me he didn't 'get' autism any more that he 'got' boyhood or 'got' 8 years old.  These are biologically determined things that he IS.  Do you see what I mean?

But just because he IS something, does absolutely, catergorically NOT mean he is defined by that thing.  Nope. No Way.  He is as free as a bird. Freer than many NTs I know.  He is what he is and he is free to choose what he wants to be and the direction he wants his life to go.

So, for me, he IS autistic. And so very, very much more 😍💙

No comments:

Post a Comment