AspieLife: Avoiding Loaded Language

People with Asperger Syndrome (Autism Spectrum Disorder) are deficient in social skills, and so social interactions often tend to go bad for us and we don’t know why.

I’m hoping that most Aspies have been taught not to use direct insults against other people— like calling someone stupid or a moron for having a different opinion. No one likes to be called a whore or a mother-effer, either. These kinds of expressions are fighting words. Don’t use them unless you want to start a fight.

But loaded language can also cause problems. One kind of loaded language is composed of words that used to have meanings but now are mostly pejorative (insult words.) One loaded word is ‘fundamentalist.’ It used to mean a kind of Protestant Christian who believed in a statement of faith called ‘The Fundamentals.’ Now the word is used to mean ‘a religion, or faction within a religion, that I personally don’t like.’ Calling someone a fundamentalist is an insult and usually meant that way, if only subconsciously. Calling someone a Catholic, Muslim or Jewish fundamentalist is not only an insult, but shows the speaker doesn’t know what fundamentalist means.

Even when someone calls himself a fundamentalist, it’s better to say ‘he calls himself a fundamentalist’ than ‘he is a fundamentalist.’ The term is just too loaded to use casually.

Other loaded terms have to do with politics and social issues. For example, on the issue of abortion. When a news anchor frames the issue as people who are for or against ‘abortion rights,’ he is taking a pro-abortion point of view. On the issue of same-sex ‘marriage,’ when a news anchor says ‘marriage equality’ as Shepard Smith once did, he is taking the side that same-sex ‘marriage’ is a kind of marriage that must be recognized as such by the State.

Loaded language is language that presumes something. Recently online someone accused a political figure of having a ‘hissy fit.’ Now, no one who likes that political figure is going to agree with that terminology, and such people will likely be mad at you for your insult of the person they like.

One loaded language term of special interest to Aspies is the phrase ‘having a melt-down.’ Neurotypical people get angry or afraid, often justifiably. We Aspies are accused of having ‘melt-downs.’ Now, if we Aspies have a reaction that is more intense— or louder or more noticeable— than what a neurotypical person would do in public— that might make the term ‘melt-down’ understandable, if unkind. But if you are an Aspie, and you calmly and unemotionally point something out that another person disagrees with, you may still be accused of ‘having a melt-down.’

The best rule of thumb is to think before you speak. If you felt differently about things, would you avoid certain words? Then avoid them anyway. Try to use neutral and non-partisan terms.

But what about when other people use loaded language that offends you? The rule is ‘forgive them.’ Let other people be wrong once in a while. You are not the language police or the correctness police. You don’t have the burden of fixing all other people. Try to get along with as many people as you can. Social interaction is tough enough for Aspies as it is, don’t make it tougher by being unforgiving or demanding.

The author of this blog, Nissa Annakindt, was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome later in life. Earlier I was just diagnosed as crazy or a spoiled child! If you are an aspie, have you had any interesting wrong diagnoses? Do tell (if you want to.)

One thought on “AspieLife: Avoiding Loaded Language

  1. Even though I was reading before kindergarten, I was sent to special ed for reading. For a variety of reasons, people did not understand my speech very well, even when I wasn’t speaking in King Jame’s English. Add to that when I read aloud I tended to stumble because I was mentally reading four or ten sentences ahead of what I was reading out loud and had to keep bouncing between the lines. I was eventually able to read a thousand words/minute, but the school thought I could barely read at all.
    I remember when I was taken out of my regular class how I would strut to the special class because I somehow thought they had recognized my superior reading capability and in this higher class, I was still better than all the other students. I didn’t find out it was special ed until my mother finally told me when I was in college getting my bachelor of science degree.

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