~Rumi

All day I think about it, then at night I say it. Where did I come from, and what am I supposed to be doing? I have no idea. My soul is from elsewhere, I'm sure of that. And I intend to end up there...Who looks out with my eyes? What is the soul? I cannot stop asking. If I could taste one sip of an answer, I could break out of this prison...I didn't come here of my own accord, and I can't leave that way. Whoever brought me here will have to take me home.

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08 March 2009

Autism-first Language


Hear ye! Hear ye! Listen up!

Perhaps you have heard of Person-First language? After all, it's common talk in the disability community.

As referenced on Wikipedia, people-first language is a way of referring to people with disabilities in a way that avoids perceived and subconscious dehumanization of people who are disabled. The idea behind using people, or person-first, language is to support recognition that someone is a person, a human being, or a citizen first, and that the disability is a part, but not all of them.

Examples of person-first language:

a. Saying, "People who are deaf or hearing impaired," instead of, "Deaf or hard of hearing people."
b. Saying "People who are of short stature," rather than, "Little people."
c. Saying, "Person with autism," as opposed to saying, "Autistic person."


Perhaps you've heard someone refer to an autistic person by saying he or she has autism. But not all autistics agree with person-first language. Such language is also frowned upon by the Deaf community and the Blind community.

Though it is common for medical and cure-focused communities to refer to an autistic person as a person with autism, such references are not the lingo of the greater whole of the Autistic Community.

In a nutshell, saying a person has autism may imply that the person is defective or that there is an inherent problem or sickness within the person. It also implies that autism can somehow be separated from the person.

Here's a quote from Jim Sinclair:

I am not a "person with autism." I am an autistic person. http://web.syr.edu/~jisincla/person_first.htm

I recently received a private message from a mother whose son is on the autism spectrum:

"Hi, I know that neither of us know each other, but I read your bio and you sound like a woman who has a lot of courage and I admire your passion for change! However, one thing that has disturbed me a little bit is the title of one of your blogs, particularly the one titled "Read A Book By An Autistic." I have a son who has Autism and I have heard others call people with Autism - Autistics. However, I personally take issue with this term and I'll tell you why - it defines the person by their disability instead of by their humanity. I would like people to know my son is a child with Autism and not simply an Autistic. It feels more respectful to my son and others with disabilities to be known as a person first. I just wanted you to know and I thought that you might understand since it sounds like you have some personal challenges of your own that have, no doubt, made you the courageous woman you are today! Thanks for hearing me out."

Here is my response:

Thank you for reading over my bio and for sending me an email. I greatly appreciate the positive way you emailed me your concerns. That's definitely something I like to see for sure!

There are varying views on autism, as I am sure you have noticed. A lot of information (both true and false), as well as passion (both good and bad) about autism seems to keep getting entangled in this constantly changing ball--if you will--of autism.

That said, everyone has a right to his or her opinions and views. Please know that I respect your decision to use person-first language in the autism arena. You come across as a mother who wishes to do right by her son and I commend you for that, as I am also a parent. I have two sons. One is autistic (there we go again...but hold on a sec), and the other is not.

Please note that not all members of the Autistic Community agree with the use of person-first language.

Though it is common for both the medical and cure-focused communities to refer to an autistic person as a person with autism, such references are not the lingo of the greater whole of the Autistic Community.

In a nutshell, saying a person has autism may imply that the person is defective or that there is an inherent problem or sickness within the person. It also implies that autism can somehow be separated from the person.

When I find myself in a sticky situation in which I wish to be respectful of all parties I will simply say, "person on the autistic spectrum."

Being a deaf person, as well as a member of the Deaf community, I prefer to be referred to as Deaf. This is preferable to me rather than the terms "hearing impaired" or "person who has deafness." I don't have deafness, I am deaf. For me, it is the same with autism. I don't have autism, I am autistic. Since I do not view my deafness and autism as negatives, I use language that puts me in the direct light of both autism and deafness.

Please know I am not trying to convert you or enforce my way of life upon you. I am only asking for your understanding even if it is to amicably agree that we disagree.

I appreciate your honesty and courage in emailing me.

...................................................

The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), in reference to person-first language, states:

As a general rule, we may wish to follow the preferences of a disability group, even if it violates other principles.

1 comment:

  1. I greatly dislike the use of the 'have', if you have some thing you can loose it. But I can't loose something who is undisociable of who I am. I'm not a person with autism I'm an aspie. And for the same reason I'm not a 'person with asperger'. This kind of thing is offending to me.

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