Following an incident in school, Rafi (age 15) posted his thoughts on Facebook. Rafi has granted permission to Matan to reprint this post.
I’d like to talk about something I have noticed when it comes to Autism and the language some of my peers use. My goal is to teach, not to lecture. I will not be naming names or condemning any individuals, but simply pointing out what went wrong.
In recent years, the R-Word (a word used to bully Neurodivergent people) has become less used. Instead, I have been hearing a word replace it, a word that has disastrous effects for the Autistic community. That word is “Autism” or “Autistic”.
Today I heard a student describe another student as a “retard” and as “so Autistic”. And yes, I did ask, neither of the students are on the spectrum. At that moment, I struggled whether to speak up. I didn’t go far, didn’t say anything about them saying “so Autistic”. I just told them not to use the R-Word, but I am still thinking about it. Should I have opened up about being Autistic? If this happened again, I am not quite sure what I would do, and I doubt I am the only one facing this dilemma.
Using the term “autistic” or “has autism” to express that someone is being dumb is something primarily concentrated in younger generations, especially on social media. You can find meme after meme of an annoying shrieking noise with a caption like “autistic screeching”. I have seen online comments calling people “autistic” if they say/do something that is perceived as annoying/weird.
This is extremely detrimental to the Autistic community. I hear a lot about “Autism Awareness” and I know that almost everyone knows that the Autism Spectrum exists. The problem is people are not educated about Autism.
Autism is as it is called, a spectrum. Not all people on the spectrum shriek or are sensitive to light/noise. One person on the spectrum might need to go to a home/facility to be in an optimal environment. I needed more support when I was in elementary school and over time and as I grew up, what I needed changed. Education, acceptance and working on an individual scale are key.
So especially to the educators and community leaders out there, please speak out if you hear people using the words Autism or Autistic in a negative way. Most people who say these types of things are just uneducated about the topic. We can change that.
I want to end with a simple thing. Don’t feel bad if you have ever had or communicated misconceptions about the spectrum in the past. We all make mistakes, simply taking the time to read the post is very helpful. Thank you all!! And feel more than welcome to share.