In the last few decades, we’ve come to understand neurodiversity better than ever before. While there is still a long way to go, there have been improvements in the education sector, government recognition, and even in the way neurodiversity is represented in the media. With all of these improvements, why is there still so much confusion around what vocabulary is appropriate?
To begin with, I’d like to mention that vocabulary is largely dependent on the individual. What is comfortable for one person may be offensive to another- it is important to make sure that the way you are speaking is comfortable for the person you are addressing. Neurodiverse voices are being heard more clearly, which is an education for us and we feel that keeping up with terminology directly via the platforms of neurodiverse content creators, is really crucial.
One mistake that people often make when it comes to talking about neurodiversity is using medical labels or terms rooted in the idea of illness. This unfortunately contributes to the stigmatisation of neurodiversity as it makes the assumption that conditions such as ADHD, dyslexia and autism have a direct and limiting impact on a person’s quality of life.
Instead of vocabulary like “sufferers of”, “illness”, “afflicted by”, “victims of” and “patients”, use person-centred language such as “is autistic”, “is dyslexic”, or “has/is diagnosed as having ADHD”.
There has also recently been a debate around terms which are considered outdated, particularly those linked to autism. For example, many autistic people are trying to move away from the concept of “high functioning autism”, due to the feeling that it marginalises autistic people by implying that some people within the community are “more” or “less” autistic than others. Another term which is being debated is the term “Aspergers”- this is mainly due to the fact that while some people still identify with this term, it has a problematic history due to the involvement of Hans Asperger.
You can be forgiven for believing that things are getting confusing and fearing the potential of getting it wrong sometimes, but at the Essential Education group, we are learning to lean into the learning, to accept that we are not all the way there but we are listening, we are growing and we are asking our readers to do the same.
A large part of properly speaking about neurodiversity is listening to the preferences of the neurodiverse community and making sure that you take that step towards leaving offensive and outdated vocabulary behind you. Steering clear of language choices which make assumptions about the lives of neurodiverse people, and, possibly the most important tip of all- ask if you’re not sure!
Let’s ensure that we make room for each and allow everyone of us to #uniquelytakeyourplace
Scarlett Pritchard – Marketing assistant – Essential Education Group