I’ve heard students described this way. Apparently it’s a bit of a trendy thing to say: “Abdul always needs the blinds drawn in the classroom. He’s so ‘Aspie’.” It seems that all one needs is a mild quirk to be thought of as having Asperger’s syndrome. There are lots of reasons why this kind of labelling is uncool. I would have thought those reasons were obvious, especially in light of “Inclusive Education” – note the OTT bunny ears I am making in the air – but since they’re patently not, and since Asperger’s is the new ADHD and OCD, but with a Spock-myth twist, I can see I am going to have to lay down a new law and explain how these labels hurt.
1. Labelling, or identifying students solely by their disability, is wrong.
Would you call a student with difficulties walking “a little bit cerebral palsy” or someone with a lower IQ “a little bit globally delayed”? Of course not. But behavioural labels seem to be more fun. People who liked clean hands were called “a little OCD” a few years ago. Now anyone with the mildest distaste for irrationality is ‘Aspie’.
2 Falsely labelling students (presumably to sound clever) trivialises the challenges of those with the actual diagnosis.
I’ve met plenty of students with Asperger’s who have a disability but often no handicap. They’re great people, and with the right support, they excel, very often beyond their peers. They face real challenges from people who are inflexible, and from systems that don’t acknowledge their needs, but they often overcome these and their uniqueness shines. Defining people by their ‘symptoms’ is unethical anyway, but labelling students as being on the spectrum due to vague tendencies trivialises the challenges of those with an actual diagnosis.
3. Calling students ‘Aspie’ makes you sound ignorant.
If you want to let everyone in the room know that you’ve never gotten to know someone with Asperger’s, then next time you see a student who likes his pencils arranged neatly, announce to your staff “Jarrod is so ‘Aspie’.” Asperger’s syndrome has nothing to do with neatness, order, even logic. And here is where I want feedback. I believe Asperger’s is more of a question to be asked, and that question is “How can I understand the way you see the world?” Because the answer you’re going to get will change your world too.