I don’t really like the word spectrum

I shared a meme yesterday on my Facebook page.

But, here’s the thing…

I don’t really like the word spectrum.

There are the three reasons for my dislike of this word that I can articulate (and several more that I can’t quite articulate at the moment).

1. Misconceptions about what a spectrum is

For a lot of people, Autistic people are at a certain static place on that spectrum. This is inaccurate. Our functioning changes daily (sometimes hourly) – just like anyone’s functioning level regardless of neurology.

Neurotypical people are allowed to have bad days. They’re allowed to have unproductive days. Our bad days and unproductive days are pathologised.

2. ‘Spectrum’ is a euphemism

People tend to say spectrum instead of autistic because they think it sounds “nicer”. Say the word: Autistic. It’s not a dirty word. Allow us to reclaim the word autistic because then we can define it on our own terms.

If you don’t like the way that people react to the word autistic, please consider that the misconceptions you need to change run deeper than the word used to describe the people about whom those misconceptions are held.

3. No one is the same as another person

Nick Walker explains this quite well in this video. The video is lengthy, but well worth listening to. If you don’t have the time though, the discussion around the word spectrum starts at around 17:17. Unfortunately, it is not closed captioned, and I do intend to return to this at some stage in the future to provide a transcript. 

Basically, I don’t like the way that spectrum is continuously reinforced in discussions around autism because why do we need to remind people that we’re all different?

All people are different from each other. Why do autistic people have to constantly let people know that we’re different from each other too?

So, that’s why I tend to baulk at discussions that use the word spectrum, and why I will always choose to say: I am autistic rather than ever saying that I am on some spectrum decided on by non-autistic “experts.”