Identify first language is a cornerstone of the autistic community. It tells people that autism is a part of us and that we cannot “have autism.” I teach all my kids that they are no ill diseased or broken.
When Boop came home, we had to undo all the ableist nonsense that was put on her. The aunt that she was living with that abused her told her that she couldn’t do certain things because she is autistic. Even denied her to go to J’s and Roo’s b’nai mizvot. The said she couldn’t handle it when she grew up in our shul.
I explained about the puzzle piece and how harmful it is. I also explained that person first language can be harmful. She calls herself autistic and is proud. Even picked out a shirt I designed. I thought that was adorable. I always reiterate that there is nothing wrong with her. She really got into it.
She is happier now that she is home and that the people she is surrounded by believe in her. There is a huge shift in her mental health and it’s a beautiful thing.
What happened At School
So one day when we were at scouts and we were ready to sit down and complete an activity, Boop looked like something was bothering her. So I asked her. She told me that her PE teacher told her she can’t use identity first language at school. At first I was angry. But I calmed down and waited a day to email the school.
I didn’t have the PE teacher’s email so I emailed the teacher explaining what IFL is and linked her to an article by ASAN. She responded over the weekend, which I was not expecting. She said she would forward the email to the PE teacher for me. A few minutes later she thanked me for educating her and will respect Boop’s preference.
A day later I got an email back from the PE teacher. I found out what happened. Boop was correcting other kids and telling them that the way they identify was wrong. She made a lot of the kids upset. I saw this email and I laughed to myself and said,”I created a monster.” I told the PE teacher that I would speak to her.
Later that day, I spoke to Boop and she understood. I told her that a lot of the kids at school have neurotypical parents who don’t know about neurodiveristy. I told her she was lucky to have neurodivergent parents and siblings. She told me she felt bad for them but won’t tell them how to identify anymore. The PE teacher apologized for upsetting her. She really cares about all the students and Roo didn’t believe it happened and before I wrote the email I promised I would are calm. He loves this teacher.
After this conversation the PE teacher emailed again. She thanked me for educating her on this and will be more sensitive to this in the future. I took this opportunity to educate the teachers and they were really receptive. I was not angry in the email. I normally would be.
I guess my point is when you are teaching your kids about IFL, make sure you tell them not to tell other kids at school how to identify. You don’t know what they were taught at home.