To give a scientific definition, autism is defined as a developmental disability which impacts how autistic people interact with the world. In this blog post, I will talk about my views on autism being considered a disability, as well as raise some important points to be aware of when thinking about the disability aspect of autism.
Note: This blog post focuses on my own views. There isn’t a clear right answer when it comes to this topic, and different people will have different views.
In my opinion, I firmly believe that autism is a disability. For most autistic individuals, being on the autistic spectrum comes with challenges which makes navigating society harder. One common challenge is with social communication. A good number of people on the autistic spectrum find social interaction tricky at times, which can make things harder when it comes to making and maintaining friendships. Another common challenge faced by autistic individuals is higher levels of anxiety than the baseline population, which can sometimes interfere with the ability to complete basic tasks. The main point I am trying to make in this paragraph is that autism should be considered as a disability due to the challenges that come with it.
Most people that I have spoken to acknowledge that their autism diagnosis is a disability. You can feel proud to be autistic, and feel that autism as a part of their identity that makes you unique and special. You can also wish that you didn’t have to face certain challenges that comes with being autistic, as some of these challenges can make navigating a neurotypical world stressful and exhausting. However, one thing that I have found is that the majority of autistic people feel a mix between the two when it comes to their diagnosis. There are times where my friends have viewed their autism positively and embraced it. On the other hand, there are times where being autistic has been genuinely hard and stressful for my friends. It can be upsetting knowing that there are some things that you find more challenging than neurotypicals, and you can sometimes feel that your life would be easier if you weren’t autistic. Ultimately, what I am trying to get across is that because autism is a disability, there are a mixture of emotions that most autistic people have when it comes to their diagnosis.
There is a clear difference between being aware that autism is a disability and judging an autistic person purely on their disability. The disability aspect of autism doesn’t make up the full picture when it comes to an someone’s identity and personality, therefore it shouldn’t dominate your thoughts when interacting with autistic people. If you judge an autistic person purely on their disability and challenges that their autism brings, you are effectively taking a one-sided view on things. This would be unfair on the autistic individual. This links to the social model of disability, which states that it’s the attitudes and judgements of society that causes barriers for autistic people (and people with other disabilities).
Even though you shouldn’t judge someone purely on their disability, you shouldn’t completely overlook the disability aspect of autism. This is because the disability aspect is something that does cause challenges for autistic people, and is something that they require support and accommodations for. Autistic people have amazing skills and qualities that can allow them to thrive. However, support should be put in place to help them with the challenges they face, as this support would provide them with a platform for their skills and qualities to shine through. One example is the workplace. If the employer puts adjustments and support in place for the autistic employee, then its easier for that employee to put their best foot forward at work. If you don’t take into consideration the challenges that autistic people face, then you wouldn’t think of providing them the support that they need, which makes it harder for them to reach their full potential. This is why I disagree with the saying “Autism is not a disability but a different ability”, as this statement essentially overlooks the challenges that autistic people face.