Sometimes we get questions about our name. Why did we choose the name Embrace Autism for ourselves? Is autism something to embrace? Those are good questions, and in this post, I will answer them.
First, let me explain why we chose this name. We started writing about autism in 2016 or 2017, on a Q&A website called Quora. I started off talking a lot about my associative thoughts, my anxiety, my confusion around how my empathy works, etc. The general theme was the negative experience of autism, and the challenges that come with it. But this was more a reflection of my state of mind at the time, than it was a reflection of how autism represents.
When I met Natalie, she saw a great discrepancy between my writing and my abilities. She saw a creative, gifted person, with humor and wit that didn’t come to expression in my writing. She urged me to adopt a more positive view of myself by focusing on my potential rather than my struggles. And it worked! Over time, I came to acknowledge my capacities and unique talents and skills, and the struggles seemingly diminished. Sure, I still have my struggles. But I deal with those the best I can, rather than feeling a need to talk about it all the time. Frankly, I feel a lot more happy and capable. And this is not just a subjective experience; my parents have been impressed with how much I’ve grown as a person, how I’ve increased my awareness and sense of compassion, and how I started taking on more responsibilities than I ever could before.
This positive shift made me realize that the challenges of autism are not inherent, but situational and context-dependent. In a more conducive environment, and being surrounded by people that can influence you in positive ways, autism can seemingly change from a disorder to a syndrome of ability. While not every autistic person has the same abilities and potential to be (more or less) independent, I’m quite convinced many of us have unlocked potential that we often don’t recognize ourselves.
That’s one of the main reasons why we started Embrace Autism. Because if I can live a happier life and take more control, then so can others. We realized by focusing on our strengths, and by writing not only about our challenges but also about our abilities and accomplishments, and by communicating research that advances our understanding and appreciation of ourselves, we can empower ourselves and others.
That is why we call ourselves Embrace Autism. We want you to understand yourself and your autism, and come to a place where you can embrace that, and see yourself as the awesome person you are.
The D in ASD
As you must know, the formal diagnostic designation of autism is ASD, which stands for Autism Spectrum Disorder. So your question might be, why do we urge others to embrace a disorder? Well, we don’t actually see it as a disorder per se, but as a difference, which you can read more about in the post below.
This is not to say that autism can’t be a disability. Indeed, autism can cause many challenges, which some will experience as disabling. But this doesn’t seem to be the experience of all autistic people.
But in particular, we don’t like the word ‘disorder’, as we find it unnecessarily stigmatizing and judgmental. On a personal level, we reject it because we believe that despite the fact that autism comes with a particular set of challenges that neurotypicals may not face, it also comes with certain advantages. This is even true of autistic people with significant support needs, although for them it may indeed be difficult to escape the term entirely. But we also believe the term has no place in the research literature, because scientists ought to describe their work using neutral language, but calling a condition a disorder makes people view the condition in terms of related struggles and deficits. Since autism is much broader than that, and constitutes a neurotype with a constellation of traits that can be experienced as both challenging and beneficial—and may be more or less conducive depending on the context and situation—it’s a lot better to call it Autism Spectrum Condition, or just autism.
Embracing our autistic differences
We hope Embrace Autism will be be a helpful resource to get a better understanding of yourself or your loved ones, and that the name will be imbued with everything we stand for, like exploring and communicating the research literature, advancing our understanding of this fascinating condition, and empowering fellow autistic people.
To us, Embrace Autism means embracing our autistic differences.