The American Heritage dictionary defines “autistic” as if describing a person: “Having a medical condition that causes you to have trouble talking to and understanding other people.” It is used as an adjective. The same dictionary defines cancer as a noun: “A disease in which abnormal cells multiply in certain parts of the body, sometimes spreading to other parts of the body.” Both of these are medical conditions and yet autism is used to describe an entire person’s life while cancer is noted to be a condition with which a person lives.
Autism is a neurological condition that does impair parts of a person’s brain. Usually social interactions are very difficult. In my experience with my own daughter I have seen huge improvements with social interactions. Just last week while at a park she saw a little girl fall down and was the first to ask her if she was okay. Through therapy and lots of talking through situations her brain has learned to compensate in many social situations.
People living with autism can have an intense focus on one subject. Temple Grandin gives the advice to use that intense focus to gain job skills. My daughter enjoys dogs. Studying about dogs is her passion in life and she wants to become a veterinarian when she grows up. Now other little girls also enjoy dogs and when they play together they play with their dogs. The intense interest is something to live with and to learn how to make the best of the situation. Each day is a new day with new challenges, but she is learning to deal in the real world and she is learning to live with her autism.
Think of “austistic” more as a condition than as the person. Every person who is labeled with ASD (autism spectrum disorder) has precious thoughts and feelings. Someone on this spectrum may have to work a little harder. But instead of saying a certain person is autistic, try saying that is a person who is living with autism. It changes the way you look at the person because they come first, not the condition.