Eren Niederhoffer is an Atlanta young professional with skills in business administration and non-software analytics. He is also a self-advocate for people with autism and is leading and growing an organization called Autistic Self Advocacy Atlanta (ASAA) which offers social experiences for people on the spectrum. Eren’s activism includes intentionally calling himself “autistic,” rather than “a person with autism.” Below he shares why he chooses using this language, instead of people-first language.

Have you noticed that a lot of people say they’re Jewish when it comes to politics, but won’t go into detail about how they practice Judaism? They simply say they come from a Jewish family and seem unwilling to express pride in their roots or their culture.

I see it as fear. That’s why when a person says, “I’m autistic,” it feels to me like instead of running from who they are, or dismissing that part of who they are, they’re acknowledging that it is part of them. They’re acknowledging the need to accept and live with the autistic part of them rather casting it aside. Just as Judaism is a part of who I am, when I say, “I am autistic,” I am saying, “this is who I am.”

Right now, my organization Autistic Self Advocacy Atlanta (ASAA) is providing lunch and dinner socials so that many autistics can meet and make friends. I am mentoring other autistics to become event hosts and leaders and also trying to help them realize they don’t have to hide who they are. Autistics can be open about themselves and to others around them. We should not hide that we are Jews either. Why would we be ashamed of being Jewish? Should some of us be shamed for being autistic? The logic is the same! This is why building an autistic community can give us that sense of confirmation to be true to ourselves.

Learn more about ASAA, self-advocacy, and MENTRA.