And other Neurodivergencies
What is autism?
According to the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, (ASAN), "Autism is a neurological variation that occurs in about one percent of the population and is classified as a developmental disability. Although it may be more common than previously thought, it is not a new condition and exists in all parts of the world, in both children and adults of all ages." The diagnostic criteria can be a bit complicated. However, the diagnostic criteria was written by allistic (non-autistic) "outsiders" looking in. If you'd like to know more about autism from an autistic perspective, I would suggest you read this article from Neuroclastic, which explains autism from the point of view of actual autistic people.
What the heck are "neurodivergencies"?
The Neurodiversity movement posits that certain brain-centered disabilities (such as Autism Spectrum Disorder, ADHD, dyslexia, dyspraxia, etc.) are primarily disabling due to a lack of societal understanding and proper accommodations. The social model of disability is used to explain that a neurodivergent person's "disabilities" are, if not caused, at least exacerbated, by having to live and function in a society which is not designed with them in mind.
Long story short? A neurodivergency is any condition that is caused by a person's brain having atypical "wiring." A good analogy I have heard often within the autism community is that having a neurodivergent brain is like having a computer running a Linux operating system, while neurotypical brains are running the latest version of Windows. Both work, and both are highly capable. However, the majority of software produced is designed to be compatible on Windows computers, and is not compatible with Linux. There is nothing wrong with either operating system, as long as you make sure that the software you are attempting to run on it is compatible.
Should I say "people with autism" (person-first) or "autistic people" (identity-first)?
Most individuals on the autism spectrum prefer to be called autistic, rather than "a person with autism." This is because our autism is inextricably linked with our personalities-- our selves. Autism is not something in addition to us. It is us.
Person-first language is often preached as the gospel, however, because people are told to "put the person before the disability." Autistic people are told "your autism doesn't define you! You are a person, first!"
Um, first off, Karen, if you have to remind yourself that I am a person, maybe you are the problem. I am quite aware I am a person. Secondly, my autism does define me, because it is not a disease--it is just how I am. How my brain is. If your brain was completely rewired, do you think you'd still be the same person? (No, Karen. The answer you're looking for is no. The wiring of your brain kind of, well, makes you you).
Unfortunately, academia seems slow to catch on, and the #actuallyautistic community on Twitter is often butting heads with well-meaning, but misinformed Karens studying to become "special education" teachers, who will argue that "well in school we learn to use person-first, because you are not your autism!" Sigh. Yes, I am. I am autistic. I am not offended by my autism being an inextricable part of my brain and personality. Please stop being offended on my behalf.