I once worked for the Mentally Retarded Citizens Welfare Association and I can clearly remember when Scope was the Spastic Society. There were ‘wogs’ and ‘chinks’ at my school. At that time I thought these titles and words were wrong. They were disrespectful and enabled generalisation and assumptions about all who fell under those banners. At university it was hammered into students that ‘person first and description second’ was the only polite way to go. Terminology was changed to ensure that words which had been appropriated as abuse were no longer used. ‘A person with an intellectual disability’ or ‘a person with Cerebral Palsy’ were considered the correct terminologies.
So it has been somewhat challenging to see the development and revisiting of how we should refer to people within the community of the neurodiverse. The terminologies ‘autistics’ and ‘autistic people’ have become more common in language now, particularly within the community of people with autism. They argue that the term ‘person with autism’ likens the autism to a handbag that can be picked up and put down as required, rather than an acknowledgement that autism is a description of neurodiversity. It’s not bad nor good, it just is.
The issue is when words are imbued with other meanings. When words become culturally appropriated as terms of abuse, the use of such terms in polite society is enough to cause the ‘pearls to get a good clutching’. Retarded, spastic, wog, chink are (or were) terms used to put people down. The only reversal of that has been the appropriation and redefinition of the term ‘wog’ which has been reclaimed by people of southern European descent and worn as a badge of honour and distinction.
Perhaps ‘autistic’ is yet to gather abusive status. I do know of one young lady who was suspended from school for delivering a right hook to some kid that called her a ‘stupid autistic’ (was the punch delivered for the ‘stupid’ part?). Suspension? I think she should have got a medal … and a suspension!
Perhaps the people with autism are keen to develop the superpower notion of neurodiversity. Whatever it is, I think the important thing is RESPECT. Call yourself what you will, but that is your choice alone to make.
For a non-wog or spick, intellectually diverse, movement diverse, neurodiverse person I think I will call you by your name. You can call yourself what you want but I can only respond with your name (if I can remember it) or collectively as a group of people with superpowers/Xmen (or should that be Xpeople).
Food for thought