Keeping the Peace, Life

Labels, Autism and Acceptance

We live with them, we use them, and we define ourselves and others by them every single day. A lot of the time labels are only about assumptions that we make of other people. Of course, if we are assuming good and positive things, then those aren’t really the harmful labels. It’s the ones that we use to judge others, to assume others won’t change, and the ones we use to try to describe an individual in one word. Then, what makes it even worse, is the shaming that follows if they don’t live up to their label perfectly. But how can any of us be defined in one word? Why do we feel the need to label everything and everyone?

Just in our experience with autism, I’ve discovered what a double edge sword a label can be. As a diagnosis, it may get you a little bit more help in some arenas. But for the most part, it serves no purpose other than to make others feel more comfortable that there is an explanation for someone’s differences that they may be having trouble accepting. We put people in these boxes and we want them to fit perfectly. We want that to be their one and only description and they can’t be allowed to be anything else outside of that or ever make any kind of mistake. So if someone has autism, how can they possibly be anything else like brilliant, an inventor, or maybe artistic?

Labeling is fueling our need to judge people constantly and it’s pushing us farther and farther from acceptance. It has also somehow given people the notion that it’s alright to shame others if they aren’t one thing or characteristic all the time or if they think a person’s labels are somehow beneath or above them. We are all unique individuals. We’re all human beings. There is so much more to each of us besides the labels we use to describe ourselves and others. Sometimes it seems like all these labels are dividing us instead of bringing us together. We’re definitely not being fair to ourselves and others if we lump all the beautiful characteristics of a person into one word.

So here’s a thought, let’s just accept each other for who we are and try only using our given names when referring to each other. Could you do it for a day? I’ll admit, I may have difficulty not calling myself a vegan (more on that topic later) or calling the next guy a computer geek. How about the people we refer to as athletic? Referring to labels like this as if they are permanent sometimes implies that this person will always be athletic and if you aren’t athletic already, you can never be. There’s so much more to all of us than a single label. We aren’t one thing and we were created to be so much more than a bunch of labels. Let’s not let labels define us or take control of who we are.

We talk about our daughter a lot and how she has autism, but it doesn’t have her. That’s because she’s so much more than autistic and it isn’t the only thing about her. Sometimes that’s all people see though and then they are missing all the other beautiful things about her. Let’s not let labels hold us hostage and let’s be everything we were meant to be. Sometimes I know they are necessary and have their place. But I’m going to do my best to just call my daughter Grace. Hey that rhymed! But in all seriousness, if you want to hear about the millions of things that make her awesome, just let me know. I’ve got all the time in the world.

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