Not “just quirky”

I see a lot of comments, memes, books – heck even entire therapy centres – themed around the idea that autistic children are “just quirky.”

This has always irritated me, but I haven’t quite been able to articulate the reasons why it’s an irritating phrase.

This article finally helped me understand part of why just quirky annoys me. Just quirky is a euphemism. When people say just quirky, they downplay that we are actually disabled. By downplaying the fact that we’re disabled, the responsibility for fitting in is placed firmly back on us. If it’s our responsibility to fit in, then greater society is expected to accommodate disabled people.

A quick aside: The word disabled is not a negative word. Calling myself disabled is merely acknowledging that society was designed for the majority of people who have vastly different abilities. If you’re using just quirky to make disability sound nicer, it’s probably worthwhile exploring how you feel about disability in general. You may need to figure out whether you’re still holding on to ableist beliefs.

We need to be able to talk about the challenges that we experience as disabled people. We need to be able to talk about why being autistic in a society that was designed for and by neurotypical people is challenging. We can’t do that when we are called just quirky.

When parents say that their autistic children are just quirky, they’re doing them a disservice. Autistic children need to be able to talk¬†about disability, and they can’t do that when they’re constantly being told that they’re just quirky.

This doesn’t mean that I’m trying to say that we’re not quirky. Much like many of us are weird, many of us can also be described as quirky. But we are more than just quirky. We are Autistic, we are disabled, and we need to be able to talk about that openly without anyone using euphemistic language to dismiss those other facets of who we are.

Many thanks to Musings of a Wandering Autistic for reading my half-formed thoughts about this, and helping me develop them into fully-formed thoughts.