This is a post I’ve meant to write for a while, but now seems the right time to share it.
You hear a lot of ‘Your disability doesn’t define you’ and ‘You’re more than just your autism.’
An outsider might see that as a compliment, but it doesn’t reflect my lived experience.
The thing is the intensity of my interests comes from my autism, that is part of what makes Sarah…well, Sarah.
I have also made some incredible friendships with other autistic people, through our shared lived experience, that is also a part of my identity.
Yes, there are many things I am too like a sister, daughter, cat mum, a swimmer, University graduate, educator etc.
But autism is part of who I am; you cannot separate it; otherwise, the real me would not exist.
Autism is not an accessory I possess; it’s one of the many parts that is integrated into my whole being. That is why I prefer identity-first language.
If you say ‘Sarah has autism’ it implies I am separate from my autism. Also, the same lexicon is used to describe a disease. For example, it’s like saying ‘Sarah has cancer’ (I don’t have cancer, I’m just using it as an example).
Autism is not a death sentence or a life-limiting illness. It’s a neurological difference.
When I was diagnosed, I was told that I needed treatment for my anxiety, not autism.
Some autistic people prefer person-first language, which should be respected, but it does not reflect my reality.
The ironic thing is when people say or imply ‘Your autism doesn’t define you’; I had no sense of identity until I discovered my autism. I felt lost as a person, but I don’t anymore since having a better understanding of my neurodivergence.
I am autistic, it does define me, but it’s not the only thing that defines me.
And no, I don’t see my autism as an inherently negative thing.
If you enjoy my writing or would like to support my online advocacy work, I would be forever grateful if you could buy me a coffee (or tea in my case).