People First Language

All throughout my college education the importance of people first language was pushed heavily. For those unfamiliar with the concept people first language is pretty simple. Instead of saying the autistic boy you should say the boy with autism. The idea is that the person is more than just their diagnosis.

When working with the ABA company, I disclosed my diagnosis to my supervisor. “I’m autistic,” I said. She tut-tutted me and said that I needed to use person first language. I replied that when speaking of a client I would always use person first language but when speaking for myself I would refer to myself as autistic. Because I am. Autism is a pervasive developmental disorder. It is always with me because it is me. Its in my brain and my sensory organs and every interaction I will ever have with anyone or anything. That’s not to say that my autism dictates every aspect of my life but it certainly does have a large voting share.

Other people have told me that I’m so much more than  my autism and identifying myself mainly as an autistic person belittles everything I’ve accomplished. I don’t understand that at all. Doesn’t it make everything I’ve accomplished more important? I am autistic and I graduated from college. I’m autistic and I have worked various jobs. It shows that people (defined by their disability or not) can do much much more than most people expect.

I am able to speak for myself and therefore able to advocate for myself. I am an autistic person and a person with autism. However I refer to myself is the manner in which I see myself. Everyone has the right to self identification. I respect everyone’s right to self identify. Tell me how you want to be addressed and I’ll address you that way (within reason cause my brother came up with some pretty funny and pretty profane self identifications just to challenge me). For a person with a disability who cannot advocate for themselves I will always use first person language. I will follow how a parent identifies their child. I will gladly explain my reasons for referring to myself as autistic because it is my choice and my identification.

And no. You can’t argue with me. Its not an opinion. Its my choice. So be polite and accept it.