When it comes to categorising Asperger’s Syndrome and Autism, a lot of people struggle to find the right terminology. I’ve heard both terms placed in many categories, ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous. People in the past have called it a disorder, others a disability. I’ve heard it called a condition, even a disease.
Let’s look at ‘disease’ and ‘condition’ first.
On this note, you have to consider that the etymological roots for ‘disease’ come from the old Anglo-Saxon ‘des – aise’ for lack of ease, or inconvenience. Ergo, calling ASDs a disease is seems a little odd considering diseases generally cause targeted physical symptoms. Also, it kind of sells the nuances of AS and Autism short by labelling it as an ‘inconvenience’. If Autism is a disease, I am thusly plagued by inconvenience.
Condition is listed as ‘an illness or other medical problem’, and Autism Spectrum Disorders just aren’t illness. If Asperger’s and Autism are illnesses, then I have never, in my life, been well. That’s a very strange course of events, and I hardly think relegating everyone on the Autism Spectrum to the realm of the medically ill is the way to move forward in a progressive society.
So now, ‘disability’. Disability is the ruling out of a specific function that is otherwise fully operational in the general populous. The thing about ASDs is that a large portion of people on the Autism Spectrum struggle in some areas while excelling in others. Obviously I’m only speaking from personal and anecdotal experience here, but I think of it as a reshuffle on a grand scale. Differently abled works in this sense, but I’m still not a big fan of the term, as it doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, and it downplays the very real impairments of Autism Spectrum Disorders.
For me, disorder just works. Autism and related disorders are just that – things are ordered differently to so-called ‘neurologically typical’ people. Some of these differences are advantageous, others not so much, but all of it makes me who I am. I see Autism as akin to an untidy bedroom; things are a little out of place, but I know where everything is. If Autism is a disorder, I’m okay with the mess.