Thursday, April 3, 2008

Why I use a capital "A" for Autism (repost)

I've recently been asked why sometimes I capitalize the word autism, even if it's in the middle of a sentence. Here goes.

In college, I majored in Sign Language Studies. In the very beginning, we learned that there is a difference between being deaf, and being Deaf. Put simply, deaf (with a lowercase d) refers to an audiological impairment. It is generally understood that deaf individuals may utilize some services, but they still identify themselves with the hearing world.

Deaf (with a capital D), is a cultural distinction. It is a term applied, regardless of degree of hearing loss) to those who grew up in the Deaf Community, their primary language being ASL (American Sign Language). People who are Deaf, do not see deafness as a disability, so much as a way of life. By capitalizing the "D", they are letting others know that there is more to the world than just the inability to hear.

I like to think the same views apply to Autism.

Autism (with a capital "A") to me, says that I accept my child wholly. I celebrate his differences and his quirky-ness. I advocate diversity. I try to empower him. I am proud of his successes, no matter how small they seem. I hope he holds onto the compassion he has in his heart into adulthood. I do not think he needs "fixing". I am proud that he is my son, and sometimes I am humbled by that very same thought.

I never want Jaysen to feel "dis-abled", that he can't do something because of autism. I want him to know that he can do it, he just has to find the way that he can. And if he can't do it- he should at least try. I want my son to grow up being proud of his accomplishments, learning from his struggles, accepting of himself, and celebrating his differences.

There is more to life than just being neurotypical.


Casdok said...

Certainly is!!
Well said!

Marla said...

I thought everyone always capitalized the word Autism no matter where it is in a sentence? Hmmm...I am going to have to pay attention to this more.

Congrats on your promotion!

LAA and Family said...

I like your thinking on this!

A Bishops Wife said...

This is really very good!

Anonymous said...

I'm not so sure. Does capitalising a word really imply that word refers to a community?

Words shouldn't be capitalized because they are 'important', they should be capitalised if it is correct to do so.

If we start capitalising words willy-nilly, it might lead to chaos. Perthaps even rioting in the streets. Seriously, I'd love to see civil disturbance prompted by errors of grammar.

mommy~dearest said...

I didn't say that capitalizing a word implies it refers to a community- I related to the Deaf Community, where yes, capitalizing the "D" in deaf does imply community.

It's not being capitalized because it's "important", it's capitalized to differenciate between deaf as a medical diagnosis and Deaf as a culture.

Intrepid Beauty said...

I'm an intern for a non-profit in Ohio. I founded their newsletter, and I like to think of myself as their media guru. I've been told by teachers who volunteer at the non-profit that Autism is supposed to be capitalized either way. I think it is important to figure out the appropriate way to display it... or at least I will for my future papers. I've also got a google website if you would like to know more about our little treasure trove of kids.