I know many people feel concerned about labels. And in some cases labels can be limiting depending on where you live and the laws. The U.S. especially is prone to these issues. And until we challenge these limits, they will remain. Avoiding the labels is a privilege (generally of wealth or power). Which means we have a responsibility to take ownership of these labels and challenge any limits attached to them on behalf of those who cannot.
Outside of the needed advocacy though, it’s a matter of perspective.
I like to use left-handedness as an example.
A person doesn’t “have” left-handedness. They are left-handed. They are a lefty.
Does that limit them? Not that I see. It does however empower them to understand themselves and ask for or set up accommodations like getting left-handed scissors or asking to sit at a corner where they won’t bump elbows with a right-handed dining partner.
So – I don’t have autism, I am autistic. I am on the spectrum. I am neurodivergent. I get that person first language is supposed to be empowering, but it turns a trait into a disease or damage. Cancer is something you can have, the flu or a cold you can have. No one says I have left-handedness.
I have ADHD means I have executive function challenges/impairments/differences. I really wonder how much of ADHD is just sleep problems?
both conditions can involve delays in language, heightened sensory responses, defiant behavior, problems with regulating emotions and difficulty with planning and with inhibiting behavior. Both also appear in childhoodDecoding the overlap between autism and ADHD | Spectrum | Autism Research News (spectrumnews.org)
ADHD alone – highly sensitive + sleep problems
Autism alone – highly sensitive + trauma or trauma epigenetics
Autism + ADHD – highly sensitive + trauma or trauma epigenetics + sleep problems
And if trauma can physically change the brain, and healing can also, then that would explain some of the struggles with finding structural causes.
So maybe I have Autism because I’m highly sensitive, had sleep problems because of tongue tie and childhood attachment trauma? I like the new umbrella term of high environmental sensitivity. And I think that neurodivergent works well as an umbrella term to just remind people that EVERYONE has a different brain and to check your assumptions that lead to conflict or challenge.
I am Autistic because I am highly environmentally sensitive and I experienced trauma. I have Autism because I am still working on healing my brain and my genes and my microbiome. I may be able to cure my Autism, but I will always be Autistic.
The other thing I like to do is the broken bone swap. It is something you can have. It is something you can heal from. Some people are able to heal quickly, some people heal slowly, and some people heal improperly, which you could also describe as some people never completely heal. That person is not defective, they have a problem. When you can see the problem, it makes it easy to be accommodating and either to know what accommodations might be needed or if you need to ask what accommodations would help.
Every mental “disorder” stems from a physical health problem. There is no such thing as “mental health” – there is only health. The sooner that becomes common knowledge, the sooner everyone can get the help they need.
Every time I write disorder, disabled and other words with dis- I get the urge to change it to diff-
Different order, different ability – because then instead of being not in order, not able, it recognizes that’s it’s a difference instead. And if that difference is a problem, then that is a problem of society/culture/community not understanding and accepting that difference.