Sometimes we get questions about our name. Why did we choose the name Embrace ASD for ourselves? What does the D stand for? Why do we use ‘ASD’ rather than ‘autism’?
Those are all good questions, and in this post, I will answer them.
First, let me explain why we chose this name. We started writing about autism in 2016 or 2017, on a Q&A website called Quora. I started off talking a lot about my associative thoughts, my anxiety, my confusion around how my empathy works, etc. The general theme was the negative experience of autism, and the challenges that come with it. But this was more a reflection of my state of mind at the time, than it was a reflection of how autism represents.
When I met Natalie, she saw a great discrepancy between my writing and my abilities. She saw a creative, gifted person, with humor and wit that didn’t come to expression in my writing. She urged me to adopt a more positive view of myself by focusing on my potential rather than my struggles. And it worked! Over time, I came to acknowledge my capacities and unique talents and skills, and the struggles seemingly diminished. Sure, I still have my struggles. But I deal with those the best I can, rather than feeling a need to talk about it all the time. Frankly, I feel a lot more happy and capable. And this is not just a subjective experience; my parents have been impressed with how much I’ve grown as a person, how I’ve increased my awareness and sense of compassion, and how I started taking on more responsibilities than I ever could before.
This positive shift made me realize that the challenges of autism are not inherent, but situational and context-dependent. In a more conducive environment, and being surrounded by people that can influence you in positive ways, autism can seemingly change from a disorder to a syndrome of ability. While not every autistic person has the same abilities and potential to be (more or less) independent, I’m quite convinced many of us have unlocked potential that we often don’t recognize ourselves.
That’s one of the main reasons why we started Embrace ASD. Because if I can live a happier life and take more control, then so can others. We realized by focusing on our strengths, and by writing not only about our challenges but also about our abilities and accomplishments, and by communicating research that advances our understanding and appreciation of ourselves, we can empower ourselves and others.
That is why we call ourselves Embrace ASD. We want you to understand yourself and your autism, and come to a place where you can embrace that.
The D in ASD
As you must know, ASD stands for Autism Spectrum Disorder. So your question might be, why do we urge others to embrace a disorder? Well, we don’t actually see it as a disorder, but as a difference, which you can read more about in the post below.
We acknowledge that the word ‘disorder’ is stigmatizing and judgmental. On a personal level, we reject it because as I just explained, we believe autism comes with its advantages. This is even true of autistic people with significant support needs, although for them it may indeed be difficult to escape the term entirely. But we also believe the term has no place in the research literature, because scientists ought to describe their work using neutral language, but calling a condition a disorder makes people view the condition in terms of related struggles and deficits. Since autism is much broader than that, it’s a lot better to call it Autism Spectrum Condition, or just autism.
So why then don’t we call ourselves Embrace ASC, or Embrace Autism? A few reasons:
- Historical reason — I got diagnosed with ‘ASD’, and so did Natalie. And while we have come to object to the D in ASD, our message was simply to embrace our condition—whatever it’s called, really. The name is quite arbitrary to us, and just a reflection of our time. And while we may not agree with the ‘disorder’ part, it was never our mission to change terminology, but to focus on content instead.
- Marketing reason — We considered changing our name to the ones mentioned above, but decided against it. Although the term ‘ASC’ has become increasingly popular since 2000,Linguistic processing in high-functioning adults with autism or Asperger’s syndrome. Is global coherence impaired? (Jolliffe & Baron-Cohen, 2000) it’s still quite an obscure term. We didn’t think it was smart to call ourselves Embrace ASC and then having to campaign to popularize its meaning. As for Embrace Autism, we like it, but we think ‘Embrace ASD’ rolls off the tongue nicer, and probably works better in terms of SEO.
Ultimately I don’t think there is a perfect name; what works now may no longer work in 10 years from now. While I was considered to have Asperger’s syndrome when I was 19, at 25 I got diagnosed with ASD, and at 30 many started viewing Asperger’s syndrome as inappropriate terminology. Identities, terminology, and language, in general, are subject to change. And that’s fine. At some point, our brand will hopefully be more than a name or a diagnostic designation, and the name will be imbued with everything we stand for, like exploring and communicating the research literature, advancing our understanding of this fascinating condition, and empowering fellow autistic people.
To us, Embrace ASD means embracing our autistic differences.