I have a friend who is a sexual assault crisis responder. She is the saint who gets a phone call at 2am to come to the hospital because another person has been raped. She stays by the victim while that person tells the police what happened and she holds the victim’s hand while her body is being treated as a crime scene. It’s a tough but not thankless job.
I remember debating with her one day over the catch-all label of “date rape.” I just don’t like that the same exact term is applied to a scenario in which a woman thanks a man at her door for a lovely evening, says they should do it again some time, etc., THEN he pushes his way into her home and violently assaults her; date rape also means a girl who got drunk, brought a man over to spend the night, took off her clothes, and is very unhappy that they had sex. I’m NOT saying the second girl had it coming in ANY WAY, I’m simply pointing out that those two situations are very different crimes but yet society calls them both the same thing. (It’s okay, my friend wasn’t too keen on my logic, either.)
As for labels, I really wish we knew a lot more about autism, at least enough to identify the very different kinds. My friend whose son has been institutionalized since the age of nine is NOT the same child as my daughter’s classmate with high-functioning Asperger’s, but we lump them all together under one umbrella, as though they somehow have the same characteristics or needs. When people hear autism, their minds jump to Rain Man, but when my daughter can finish her homework or get a 100% on a spelling test, people think, “There’s nothing wrong with that child.” I wish we had a different term for the varieties and the differences.
Until we know enough to distinguish between the very different individuals on the spectrum and to inform people about those differences, the only thing we can do is break down the stereotypes of autism by keeping those around us educated on the uniqueness of our own kids.