Is Autism An Identity?

Yes and no.

Autism is an identity for some adults who have found community with others who share a diagnosis. The impact of autism on their lives is so significant that they feel a sense of deep meaning and connection to how they are 'differently wired' and that 'wiring' feels integral to their sense of self. As autistic adults, it is their prerogative to decide how important autism is and what having autism or being autistic means to them.

But autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder. It is a clinical diagnosis in the DSM5--the manual US clinicians use for diagnosing clients with mental disorders. Making an identity out of a clinical diagnosis is a personal choice that people should come to on their own. Children and youth should decide what having autism or being autistic means to them.

Parents should be aware that there are risks when people over-identify with any diagnosis, including autism. Self-acceptance and understanding is liberating but self-limiting beliefs not grounded in reality can impede youth from achieving their goals or even trying. 

To learn more about talking to children about an autism diagnosis, check out the Autism Parent Training program I created for intentional parents who want to foster mental well-being in their kids.


Contact Me For Help With Understanding Autism and Children's Mental Health