With the publication of the DSM-5, controversy has been sparked again in the autism community. Rather than maintaining the old distinctions between autism, Asperger syndrome, and other related disorders, a new diagnosis—autism spectrum disorder—has been put in place. What does the change mean? Honestly at this point it’s hard to tell. One of the big issues is whether families with kids who have special needs will continue to get services they need to succeed in school.
The other, more philosophical issue for the autism community to hash out is whether the new diagnosis helps to normalize autism or if it will further stigmatize people with an ASD diagnosis. Will the new diagnostic language encourage making distinctions between those with “just Asperger syndrom” or “high functioning” vs. the rest of people with an ASD diagnosis. To put it another way, are some of my friends “Christians” or “people with Christianity”? Do we need to correct others who self-identify as “autistic” without qualification? Maybe we should exchange insurance paperwork before starting to chat. I’m being a bit sarcastic here, but the question remains: Where does political correctness override individuality?
I’m a comic book writer, so I have an active imagination. My dream is that we in the autism community can come to a point where our language can demonstrate autism acceptance. Of course, in the world of special services and insurance companies, these distinctions are necessary. But in our community, in casual conversation, it seems to create divisions where we should be united. While not everyone experiences autism to the same degree or intensity, we do have common experiences and perceptions. We need to communicate our unity to each other, first of all, and then to neurotypical people. I want Face Value Comics to be at the forefront of bringing autism acceptance to all our readers.