Recently, I saw a poll that was being run by a certain (so called) Autism charity which has a bit of a thing for the colour blue. They wanted to know whether to use person first language or not. For those of you who are not familiar with this idea, they want to refer to us as a Person with Autism as opposed to an Autistic person. This question of how we should define ourselves, and others, is a very complicated and divisive subject for all concerned. For those of us who have Autism, the question is even harder.
This is mainly because there is a fundamental argument over this. Do we say that someone is Autistic? Or that they have Autism? Generally speaking most of us on the spectrum prefer to be called ‘Autistic People’ or some variation of this. Whereas professionals, parents & caregivers seem to prefer the term ‘Person with Autism’.
However this debate within the Autistic community is a long way from finding an answer to the question of ‘whether or not to use person-first language’. It has become a minefield of political correctness, where one wrong word and you’re labelled as rude, insensitive, inappropriate or just plain ignorant. In my humble opinion, as someone on the spectrum, I prefer ‘identity-first’ language because my Autism is important to me. If something is truly a part of me and what I am, should it not follow that I use it to describe myself?
People use descriptors such as gender and race all the time and disability is no different. It’s not like I’m defined by this condition that needs to be separated from me. Autism, or any disability is not something we carry with us, like an accessory or our favourite hat. Rather, it makes up part of who we are. It’s an operating system, and to separate Autism from someone would make them a totally different person. Therefore, identity-first language is very important to me and many people within the Autistic community.
I can’t speak for everyone, though. The people on the spectrum who I’ve had conversations with about this, have agreed with me about identity-first language. It’s not taking away from the person in any way, shape or form – this type of language is an enhancer. After all, it’s rather obvious that human beings are people, and if one needs to be told that, it’s a whole different issue to begin with!
Stay Safe X