Recently I spoke to a man named Quinn (also known as Autistimatic on YouTube and Twitter) regarding our various experiences as people on the autism spectrum. He shared some valuable insights and during our discussion we touched upon the current debate among the autistic community over the usage of the term ‘Aspergers’ and whether it is currently acceptable to use the word to describe individuals with an autism spectrum condition.
The debate in question began when recent evidence came to light identifying Hans Asperger, the man responsible for a great deal of what we know about Aspergers today and the man after whom the condition is named, as a Nazi sympathiser. Furthermore, Aspergers has now been removed from the Fifth Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (the DSM-5), with the diagnosing of Aspergers being discouraged by a number of professional practitioners.
I must admit that I am stubborn to give up the word. Aspergers is what I was diagnosed with and is, for better or worse, the word I have identified myself with for the past sixteen years (I was diagnosed when I was around age seven.) I do not believe in this case that a label is in and of itself harmful; rather we should be focusing on what the label means as opposed to the actual label itself.
Let me explain further. Society is now largely aware of the term Aspergers and possesses a reasonable amount of understanding in regards to what it is. I disclosed my Aspergers when being interviewed for my current job and my employers not only knew what is was but possessed an understanding of how to help me work at my optimum level. The word ‘autism’ from my personal experience has, in comparison with the use of the term ‘Aspergers’ elicited a wider range of responses from the non-autistic members of general public, many of whom are still misinformed and many of whom, alas, still associate autism with the classic ‘Rain Man’ cliche.
As a YouTuber I find myself in a dilemna. I intend to keep using the term Aspergers to describe myself and others for the foreseeable future, as many of my viewers identify with the term much as I do myself. I also have viewers who identify as solely autistic, viewers who use both of the aforementioned terms to describe themselves, and those who are undiagnosed but who suspect that they have the condition. All are welcome on my channel including Neurotypical (non-autistic) people, some of whom may be watching to educate themselves or because they have people in their lives who are affected by the condition.
Whilst I worry that using the term Aspergers may be a turn-off for some viewers, I take consolation in the fact that many successful and well-informed YouTubers (such as The Aspie World) continue to use the term.