“Ethan suffers from Asperger’s syndrome and attention deficit disorder…”
Excerpt from CNN article, What’s Next for Ethan After Alabama Standoff.
Even when we were in the midst of learning how to manage Teddy and Asperger’s, even when we were hanging out on the backside of the learning curve, never, never, ever, ever did I think Ted SUFFERED from Asperger’s.
You suffer from the flu, not from Asperger’s.
And if we are ever going to get to the point of true tolerance and inclusion of Asperger’s and Autism, we must leave this word and all the negative associations it brings, behind.
Imagine the parents of a child just diagnosed hearing, “Your child suffers from Asperger’s.”
How is that going to make those parents feel? What kind of fear does that encourage?
For almost two decades now, each and every time someone has used that word to describe my son I corrected them. I have looked MDs and PhDs in the eye and said, “Asperger’s is NOT a pathology, it is a neurology.”
I have written letters to authors who have used “suffers” in articles I have read.
I just can’t tolerate that word.
To me it implies an infirmity, something to be pitied.
My son and others with Asperger’s are not infirm, nor are they to be pitied. They are people, like everyone else, and should be treated with respect and compassion, just as everyone should be.
And so, even though the legislator who represents the part of the state in which this incident occurred was speaking in a supportive way of the little boy kidnapped at gun point, he also, without even realizing it, was contributing to a negative perception of Asperger’s. And as a citizen of his state, (although not his district) I will send him a gentle email both thanking him for expressing compassion towards Ethan and the challenges of Asperger’s, but also kindly asking him not to view Asperger’s as something someone suffers.
Maybe I am a crazy idealist when I say I look forward to a day when Ethan is just Ethan, Ted is just Ted, and the fact that they have Asperger’s is no longer even mentioned. I look forward to the day when Asperger’s is so widely accepted and understood that it is as mundane a descriptor as the color of someone’s hair.
But until that happens, while we still use Asperger’s, can we please just drop the suffers and say, Ethan has Asperger’s.