Recently, I was at autism training and while it is great that people like me have the opportunity to access this now, the phrase "we're all on the spectrum" again popped up. Autism is indeed a spectrum but to mislabel anyone with certain quirks autistic is an injustice to those who actually deal with the often harsh realities of life with autism.

Autism awareness

Ten or twenty years ago, when I was growing up with a brother with autism, there was hardly any autism awareness at all and political correctness was still in its infancy so public outings could often be a struggle for families. Things are changing now, however, as we light up blue in April and supermarkets, cinemas and shopping centres create autism-friendly zones and times.

Media misrepresentation

While this increased awareness is admirable, however, it has also lead to a considerable amount of media misrepresentation. Recently, I was flicking through the channels and came across an advert for a new Channel Four programme called ‘Are You Autistic?’ and I was immediately offended. Not because they proposed that it is likely that there are many autistic adults in Britain who have been undiagnosed but because it was yet another case of media misrepresentation in these modern times. Examples of media misrepresentation include labelling certain characters autistic just because they happen to have certain oddities or saying a historical figure is likely to have had autism just because they were a late speaker.

Dangerous phrase

This generalisation can become dangerous when someone who is unique is mislabelled as being "on the spectrum" and despite saying this phrase, many people use it flippantly without actually considering this.

I remember discussing the abortion debate with some friends of mine. The vast majority of us were pro-choice and one of my friends asked if we would abort a baby if we knew that they were disabled. Her response was that she wouldn’t if it was “just autistic or something.” I was livid, she had reduced all the complexities of living with autism to "just autism."

To reduce something so complex into "just autism" or something all of us have with all of us being "on the spectrum" in some form or another is totally disrespectful to those individuals who may be closer to the other side of the spectrum as their needs and quality of life are inadvertently neglected as well as that of their families, friends and carers.