[OPINION] actually autistic

Since being diagnosed by my developmental pediatrician in December 2018, I’ve been feeling a bit confused about what Autism Spectrum Disorder really is. For me, this label was extraordinary, because I already knew the reason why people could not understand me.

However, there are still people who cannot believe that I have autism. It’s not simply because of denial, but rather the so-called “severity level” of symptoms that is widely seen as a basis for determining autism.

“You don’t necessarily look autistic.” “Hindi ka naman mukhang special child ah!“I’m always told that every time I admit I’m officially diagnosed with autism. They think people with autism are like the ones portrayed on Filipino TV shows like Little Nay and My special Tatay in which it is only an intellectual disability.

I confess that before receiving the label “autism”, I used to consider autism as an intellectual disability. This is because I have autistic parents and most or almost all of them have intellectual disabilities.

However, that view slowly changed when I finally received my diagnosis. I started searching everywhere – the internet, personal interactions, the library – about what autism really is. It was then that I came across the widely known neurodiversity movement in the West.

Said movement asserts that autism is a spectrum. But it’s not like a color hue in which it’s roughly “a bit of blue” or “strong blue”, but more of a rainbow spectrum. In a rainbow spectrum, you cannot claim that yellow is more “blue” or that blue is less “red”. Rather, you should nuance each color since each corresponds to specific developmental areas such as, but not limited to, sensory processing, neuromotor differences and skills, pragmatic speech, social awareness, and repetitive behaviors. And to be autistic, you have to be affected not in one or two areas, but rather in most or all of them.

This belief had radically changed my initial vision of autism. It kind of made me realize that the autism community is diverse in nature, in which each autistic person like me may have different ways of thinking, acting and communicating, but is still affected by most or all areas of development.

For example, in my case, I can easily process information written in literary texts, not only reading single paragraphs, but also entire novels with little or no pictures. Also, I’m not sensitive to certain sounds and flashing lights. However, I have difficulty interpreting social communications and tend to go back and forth repetitively while thinking or whispering.

Truly autistic, no less or severely autistic

Those who say I’m not really autistic are not only wrong, they’re also setting a dangerous precedent. Apart from disrespecting people formally diagnosed with autism, it is also a disgrace to those who appear to be less or not autistic but instead have the condition. Moreover, it is also a disrespect to undiagnosed autistic people who, until now, have not yet sought a formal diagnosis, due to poor and biased diagnostic tools that neglect to other sectors such as women and LGBTQ+.

This precedent is why most “less” autistic people like me are afraid to tell anyone about our condition, including in the health sector. Moreover, it is the reason why certain marginalized sectors like women and LGBTQ+ are more prone to masking or covering up their autism, leading to serious complications and co-morbidities. In other words, social stigma compels them to conceal their labels.

The Wong family fights for justice for autistic sons

For example, in the then-controversial Plantation Bay Resort issue in December 2020, the resort owner then posted an erroneous comment about autism, claiming that “uncontrollable screaming is not a symptom of autism.” Such a statement received negative reactions from netizens as it only singled out the symptoms of autism.

That’s not to say I romanticize autism. Of course not! What I mean is rather that autism spectrum disorders are complex. Not all autistic people have the same difficulty in each area of ​​development. Nevertheless, they still need proper support to be able to function fully not only in their personal life but also in their social life.

Let’s end this cycle of perception that autism is linear, so that we, the autism community, can say loud and clear that we really are autistic! – Rappler.com

Ronald G. De Guzman Jr. is an incoming 2n/a year BS Mathematics student at the University of the Philippines Baguio. Having been diagnosed with autism with comorbid bipolar disorder, he is interested in discussing, reading and writing about topics involving disability issues and studies.

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