The words we use make all the difference

How we describe things, how we label them, makes all the difference in how what we are trying to describe is perceived.  Sometimes how we label and describe things we are in favor of is meant to portray opposing views in a negative light (just look at the terms used in the abortion debate: pro-choice vs. pro-life).  

Have you ever heard of dihydrogen monoxide?  Should you have?  Here are some facts:

  • Dihydrogen monoxide is colorless, odorless, tasteless, and kills uncounted thousands of people every year.
  • Most of these deaths are caused by accidental inhalation of DHMO
  • Prolonged exposure to its solid form causes severe tissue damage.
  • Symptoms of DHMO ingestion can include excessive sweating and urination, and possibly a bloated feeling, nausea, vomiting and body electrolyte imbalance.
  • For those who have become dependent, DHMO withdrawal means certain death.

What is this horrible, lethal substance?  Why hasn’t it been banned by the government?  If you remember your high school chemistry, you have already figured out that dihydrogen monoxide is nothing more than plain old H2O – water.  But spin it the right way, and it is B-A-D bad.

What is your initial reaction when you read these symptoms?

  • Lack of abilility to spend time in the company of oneself for a long duration
  • Preoccupation with being with others, especially in social events
  • Preoccupation with oneself, one’s career, one’s material and physical image
  • Preoccupation with one’s social status, fame and income

Or this description of life from someone who ‘suffers’ from this syndrome:

  • I do too many things and don’t really focus on one. Instead of just focussing on one thing at a time, like I would like to do, I try to do too many things and it seems like I’ve got it all figured out, but I really don’t. “Inability to focus intensively on one interest,” is a definite symptom.
  • Judgement. I judge everyone. I judge based on whether you are like me or not like me. I expect everyone to blend together, to homogenize. If there is any difference, I become afraid and have to send that different person away. “Persistent intolerance of others,” is another symptom.
  • I am highly impatient. I guess that’s why I don’t really think that hard about anything. It takes up too much time when I have to get my hair done. Not to mention impatient with others. I don’t have time to listen to your bla bla!
  • I take things for granted. Um hum. Big time. I don’t take time to “smell the flowers” or watch the rain fall… Who has time? I need to stand in line at Starbucks while I’m rushing to get to work!
  • It says in this manual I read today, that ” there is also a strong fascination for social belonging to the point of chronic lying…In most cases, there is an associated diagnosis of depression, substance-related disorders, sedative dependence, and other behavioural symptoms including inability to listen carefully to others, difficulty with empathy, and a deep fear of heterogeneity.”

Sound like anyone you know?  You, maybe?  The symptoms are, in fact, of “Neurotypical Syndrome” as identified by Estee in a thought-provoking post of the same name.

In the same way I believe that the words we use to describe autistics are unnecessarily negative.  Are there negative aspects to autism and Asperger’s?  Absolutely.  Is that all there is to people diagnosed as such?  Absolutely not.  

I’ve been told many times through the years that perception is reality.  If you perceive a thing negatively, it will have a negative influence on your life, on your reality.  If we perceive autism in our children as only a negative, a bad thing, then that is how it will play out in our lives.  

If, on the other hand, we can see the positives – of course while acknowledging the negatives – the impact on our lives will be correspondingly positive.  

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