July 28, 2021

For aesthetic reasons alone, I find the word “aspie” delightful. It reminds me of a cute little spy who aspires, and also makes pie.

So, why don’t I use it – or its parent term, Asperger Syndrome?

It isn’t because people unfamiliar with Asperger’s might think I’m discussing an unsavory sort of burger.

It isn’t due to the unsavory history of its namesake, either – though that’s another benefit of dropping the term.

If those were my only reasons, then renaming it would be sufficient. It even has a synonym already – “high-functioning autism.”

But the problem isn’t just the word. The problem is the concept. Splitting autistic people based on who seems more functional is factually incorrect, and also harmful.

It’s incorrect because every autistic person is stronger in some ways and weaker in others. Moreover, our abilities vary widely in reaction to our environment. Because our skill profiles are so spiky, it’s impossible to rank us in a linear way.

It’s also harmful to rank us, period. Those of us who seem too independent miss out on much-needed support, while others are deemed too dependent to make their own choices.

Besides, there’s so much variety on the spectrum that no dividing line can tell you what an individual needs. Instead, prioritize learning what helps a person communicate, followed by their unique physical and practical needs.

In many ways, my life would have been easier if I’d learned about autism earlier. But one bonus of a late diagnosis is that I never had to untangle “aspie” from my identity – it was autism all along.

P.S. I write from my personal experience as an autistic. What I share is not a substitute for advice from an autistic medical professional. Also, some of my opinions have changed since I first wrote them.