Autism is not a disease

One of the ways to measure the progress and tolerance of a society is the language with which it refers to the diversity of the people that make it up.

Autism is not a disease

One of the ways to measure the progress and tolerance of a society is the language with which it refers to the diversity of the people that make it up. As we move forward, words and their meanings evolve. Expressions that were once common cease to be so because the social consensus establishes that they are offensive and out of place. Those related to origin, ethnicity or sexual diversity are perhaps the most obvious, but much has also evolved in areas such as disability or personality disorders.

Some readers, however, have written to me in recent weeks to point out articles where we have not been sensitive enough. Carlos J. García Elvira, president of the BicycleTEA Association and father of a girl with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), pointed out that in a headline of the digital edition we referred to autism as a disease. People with this disorder, he explains, "don't have any kind of disease" and using this term "is hurtful to them and their families." Reader Patricia Alaguero also wrote me months ago about a similar mistake: “You don't have Asperger's, it's not a tumor or a malaise. With this syndrome you live and coexist. It is not a disease, it is a neurological disorder, there is no cure. It is a way of being and thinking”.

The reader Carolina Alcalde, for her part, warned about an article published as a result of actor Will Smith's slap in the face of the host of the Oscars gala. Recalling that Rock explained years ago that he has a "non-verbal language learning disorder", the news linked this supposed disorder with the impassive reaction of the presenter after Smith's aggression. "They make an interpretation of sensory disorders that is similar to the relationship between speed and bacon", lamented Mayor.

Another reader, Francesc Sistach, after reading an article in which an analogy was established between attention deficit disorder and current news issues, described it as "unfortunate that journalists and the media use references to diagnoses in this way, insisting on stigmatizing people who have them and highlighting their negative aspects”.

Although in the vast majority of the information published in the newspaper an attempt is made to use the precise language and sensitivity to address this type of issues, the messages of these readers remind us that it is essential never to fall into the trivialization of these expressions nor lower our guard to continue advancing, also with words, towards a more tolerant and sensitive society towards diversity.


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