I am a disabled person. Much of my life is dictated by the fact that I am autistic, and that therefore I am unable to do certain things easily. Being autistic dictates where I go to eat every day, where and with who I spend my time, in what places I can work and study and enjoy myself. If a food is too complex I cannot eat it. If a place is too loud then I cannot be there. If a statement is too vague, then I cannot understand it. As well, that which I consider in excess is just fine for the typical person. In short, because I am autistic there are things that are much more difficult for me then they are for the majority of other people.

And yet, I consider autism to be fundamental to my identity: to my internal conception of myself. When I give a presentation about autism, or write an article about autism, or just talk about autism in casual conversation, I try to make it very clear that I do not consider autism like an ailment that I am stuck with, but as a part of who I am. So much so, that I have changed the way that I speak about myself: from “a person with autism” to “an autistic person.” I also try to make it clear that I would not want to be any other way than I am now. Despite all the difficulties I experience because I am autistic, if some procedure were developed that would stop me from being autistic then I would refuse it (and vehemently at that).


Two reasons.

The first concerns the concept of disability itself. Having a disability is often associated with bearing a burden, or with withstanding a trial. When we speak and think of disability, we are often making the implicit statement that “there is something wrong with that person, because there is something that they have difficulty with, or that they cannot do.” Or put another way, “a person with a disability is to some degree broken.” I maintain that this is false. To have a disability literally means that one is limited in one’s ability to perform certain tasks or actions. That does not mean that the person with a disability needs fixing. Human beings should never be considered broken, because they never are. Not only is that conception emotionally harmful to individuals with disabilities, who grow up to think that they are broken, but it is a misunderstanding of what it means to be disabled.

The second concerns the specific nature of autism. As autism is neurological in nature, to say that someone is autistic is to say that their brain works or is arranged in a certain way. A device that claimed to “cure” a person of their autism would have to change—in a very fundamental way—the nature of that person. To “cure” a person of their autism would be to change the way that they process and perceive the world. To “cure” a person of their autism would be to kill that person, and replace them with a new, non-autistic person, who would then take up residence in the body of the deceased. As such, I consider my difficulties, numerous as they may be, a reasonable price to pay for my continued existence.