Thoughts on Language and Responsibility in Blogging about Autism
There have been some posts I’ve read recently that raise the issue of the right of authors to be true to their experiences and the responsibility an author has to a wider audience. I’ve been chewing on this, weighing it. A lot of what we do in the online autism blogging community is reactionary; we respond to other people’s words. Sometimes we skewer them for those words. I’ve done that here; this blog started as a response to the words that Age of Autism put out there (and would do things differently now). Words matter; we all know that. Words start wars. Words end them. Words began relationships and tear them apart. Words build people up and rip them apart.
So it is not just words then, obviously, that do this, but the sentiment behind them, the honesty with which the words are offered and the receptivity of the person hearing those words. Sincerity on the offerer’s part can be rendered moot by the skepticism of the receiver. Wiio’s laws regarding communication are always worth keeping in mind.
It would be remiss to not let readers know the pieces which have made me think about the responsibilities we have when we write, both to ourselves and our own experiences and to the community at large. Failure to consider these twin responsibilities in tandem leads to more conflict. We hear in this community a lot about empathy and how autistic individuals lack it, with many autistics and families stepping forward to say that’s not true in their experiences. The reality is that we are all occasionally empathy-impaired. We are all occasionally self-absorbed. It is not the complete measure of a person that we have an occasional lack of empathy and occasional self-absorption (which go hand-in-hand), but if we do not know when to shake that off and make amends, well, perhaps that’s the bigger problem. What’s important is that these kinds of pieces, the range of experiences, offer us the opportunity for reflection.
Rachel Cohen-Rottenberg’s recent piece “On Language and the Spectrum of Experience” calls a mother blogger to task for not considering her autistic son’s perspective when she relates a late night experience. Always thoughtful, Rachel’s concern that the autistic person’s perspective be related, be considered, that bloggers be responsible for their language use so that stereotypes not be perpetuated is clear.