Single words don't bring about acceptance, nor does hiding behind words like neurodivergent in the illusion it changes ableism and stigma because it doesn't.
Autistic people have their own unique qualities just as non autistic people do. Autistic people may share some similarities, but just like anyone else they come into the world with their own personality thus it doesn't mean we will necessarily get along just because we are both autistic. It could be said that our strengths may shine through in the light of autistic selves, and they may also shed an unconventional light on life. For me that is very real as I see perspectives other’s do not see, and this also afforded me a 25 year career in mentoring others.
I think some people are losing perspective as the so called right language is being treated like it a magic bullet to change. Shaming those who don't follow blindly other peoples terminology is bullying. We should not be shaming people for using person first language thus projecting on to others they should use identity first it as it doesn’t make us look good. This is nonsense as we are people who have our own paths in life, and do not have to follow the rules of what makes someone else feel comfortable. The point is we are ourselves and identity is personal not one size fits all.
I use identify first language but I don’t have an issue with person first language as that’s their choice. If it’s relevant to a situation, I use autistic person. I don’t announce I am autistic no more than I introduce myself by my pronouns, say I am vegan, introverted or I have fibromyalgia, GAD, social anxiety or anything else. If I need an accommodation I will often state something like, I am very sensitive to bright lights, could you turn the lights down please. In many cases it is more effective to keep it simple as most people will accommodate needs without a story attached to it.
I was a nurse for 20 years and worked a lot in the disability sector including rehabilitation spinal and head injuries. We were taught to use person first language so their disability wasn’t seen as a limitation to what they may be able to achieve in life so not to to be distracted by someone's disability. Recently it has been turned into a negative and sends the wrong message. If anything, person first language was supposed to take the stigma away.
I have seen people corrected and bullied for using person first language and this is just not on. I use identity first language because I believe being autistic has shaped much of my life and who I have become. I don’t use identity first language because it is the preferred language used by many autistic people, as I don’t conform to anything just because the majority do. I live life on my own terms and do what feels best for me, not others. I believe both languages belong in the disabled community because they are both real for many disabled people for different reasons.
I feel it is vague to say I am neurodivergent as there are so many neurotypes under the neurodivergent umbrella, so it doesn’t say much to me. For myself I will say I am autistic because saying we are neurodivergent doesn’t take away the stigma or ableism we face. In the end my diagnosis of Autism spectrum disorder level 2 is only on a piece of paper for the medical jargon, and I don't refer to myself with that when disclosing I am autistic.
It isn’t good to compare ourselves to other people for an identity as comparing ourselves to others robs us and others of getting to know us, and does not allow us to see our true selves. Many people end up living a life that society dictates or ones their families prescribe for the illusion of success, comfort and security. No doubt there are many autistic people who follow this recipe to fit in with the so-called norms that neurotypical society dictates.
Comments like you don’t look autistic, we are all a little bit autistic, autistic people could be normal if they tried, are all hurtful and dismissive. It is gas-lighting and fails to recognise that they experience significant daily difficulties that impact their lives. There is no such thing as being a little autistic. Many people show some characteristics of autism from time to time. This may include avoiding bright lights and noises or preferring to be alone and rigid about rules but this does not make them autistic.
The levels in autism diagnosis weren't ever meant to describe the level of support needed but rather to give an indication of potential support needs, because in the end the support needs must be established after diagnosis no matter the level given as all autistic people have support needs. I was diagnosed with level 2 autism, general and social anxiety because I do need a lot of support and are on a disability support pension. I think the levels are interrupted wrongly by people, and why people have more expectations of them than what they are actually for.
When we call someone high functioning, we are minimizing their struggles and difficulties. All autistic people require some support to function out in the world. The issue is mainly because level 1 is seen as much milder than it is thus gets dismissal from society as high functioning. The more people unmask the more they will be seen better as well. However, I don’t think high functioning labels should be used for any human being autistic or non-autistic as these paints an unreal picture and expectations of human beings in general.
Words matter but not to point that they are the be all. I think some people are under the illusion that if they find the so-called perfect word’s we are going to get the acceptance and understanding we need. Focusing too much on words creates an illusion this will fix the issues we are dealing with. The term neurodivergent doesn't protect us from stigma and ableism but the illusion that it does seems to exist. It isn't some safe hiding place to protect us from the suffering imposed on us.
We will never please everyone with the perfect language because people focus on the baggage these words may have had for their own life experience. People tend to see the world how they are rather than how it is. Language is important, to a point but I think it would go a long for people to realise single words are not as powerful as they think in gaining acceptance. It takes a lot more than that to change the hearts and minds of humanity.