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What is your opinion on "person first" language when describing autism?  Do you prefer being called someone with autism or autistic?

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Apologies if this feels like I'm dropping in to watch the autie zoo. Not my intention.

 

I'm finding this thread really interesting and appreciated the link about "irreducible quality".

 

I have neurotypical traits, but I also have a mental illness. I don't think of myself as a mentally ill person. I wonder if this is part of the difference between autism/Asperger's being part of how one is wired vs what one acquires?

 

Feel free to ignore the NT.

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Leaving aside the DSM-V's new nomenclature, I don't mind referring to myself as "an Aspie," but have never liked saying "I have Asperger's," because of the person-first way the phrase works.

NOT leaving aside the new nomenclature, I and a number of my Aspie and Autie friends really hate the new DSM language, because "I'm ASD" is bullshit English, and "I have an Autism Spectrum Disorder" dumps us right back at the question that prompted this thread, solidly in person-first-land. Since I am, first and foremost, a person, I will choose how to refer to myself, regardless of what the DSM says.

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I have ASD. Not I am ASD. You wouldn't say I am depression or I am any other mental illness or neurological disorder, so why would I want to say I am ASD, just because I have ASD and my behaviours and experience with life is different?

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My opinion is that since autism is something I will never "get rid of" and it is who I am, I am autistic.  I have depression but don't consider myself depressed because there is a possibility that the depression will no longer be there.  Mental illnesses can go away, but autism is here to stay.

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I agree with most of the posters on this thread: thinking about it, I am autistic seems more natural and accurate than I have autism, but it doesn't overly bother me if some people prefer to use the latter. Often it's an integral part of the person and influences most aspects of who they are.

It's not a disease that can be cured or really separated from a person. It's a different way of being wired which has its own negative, neutral and positive aspects. Some of the negative aspects can be worked on -- we can develop ways to cope and adapt. Other aspects, for better or worse, will always be a part of us.

Kind of like neurotypical people would probably say I am neurotypical rather than I have neurotypicality. I guess it's kind of hard to draw a line sometimes between what is a part of someone and what can be separated from them.

I am autistic sounds more positive and accepting. I have autism can maybe carry more negative connotations, like it's this burden we want to distance ourselves from. It might be that, but since there is no option to be "rid" of autism, surely the most helpful thing is to accept it as a part of oneself and in doing so, to try to learn to understand and work with it.

Edited by amianthus

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Some people emphatically prefer to be called people with autism. Others get very offended. Some people emphatically prefer to be called autistic people. Others get very offended. There are reasons for all of that.

 

They have to do with the history of the intellectual and developmental disability community, the autism parent community, and the specific autistic self advocacy community.

 

For intellectual and developmental disability:

 

Most self advocates have a very strong preference for person-first languagePerson-first language in this concept means “I am a PERSON, and I am not going to allow you to treat me as a disability case study, nor am I going to tolerate your diagnostic overshadowing.”

 

Autism is a developmental disability. There is a highly visible and destructive community of parents who consider themselves to be afflicted with their child’s autism. There is an autistic self advocacy community that developed in part specifically due to the need to counteract the harm being done by autism parents. The language someone prefers will often depend on which of these facts seems most important at a given time.

 

Regarding developmental disability.

 

Folks who are primarily involved in the IDD self advocacy community usually prefer to be called people with autismThis is for the same reasons people with any sort of developmental disability usually prefer person first languageIn that context, “person with autism” means “I am a PERSON, and you are not going to treat me like an autistic specimen.”

 

Regarding the destructive autism parent community:

 

This parent community pushes the agenda of parents who believe that their child’s autism is a horrible tragedy that befell their parents and familyThey call themselves the autism community, but they consistently refuse to include or listen to autistic self advocates (especially adult self advocates). They only care about neurotypical parent perspectives (and only from parents who think autism is horrifying)They promote things like intense behavioral therapy for young children, institutionalization, group homes, sheltered workshops and genetic research aimed at developing prenatal testing. They do not listen to autistic self advocates who object to these things.They don’t care about the priorities of autistic self advocates. They do not do any work on issues such as self-directed adult services,enforcing the Olmstead mandate to provide services in the community rather than institutions, or research into skills for listening to people whose communication is atypicalThese parents have an emphatic preference for person first language. They say “people with autism.”What they mean by this is “Autism is NOT a part of who my child is, it’s an evil brain slug attached to their head, and I want to remove it at all costs.”

 

There is also an autistic self advocacy community. It developed in significant part to counteract the harm done by the autism parent community:

 

A lot of the agenda of the autistic self advocacy community is the same as the IDD community and pursued in cooperation with the IDD communityBut there is also a lot of work that’s specifically about countering the harm that has been done by the autism parent communityMuch of the worst harm done by the parent community comes from the cultural consensus that autism is like an evil brain slug, and that any amount of brutality is a good thing if it might mean that the slug shrinks or diesFor this reason, participants in the autistic self advocacy community generally have a very strong objection to person first languageIn this context, “autistic person” means “Autism is part of who I am. I’m ok. Stop trying to get me to hate myself. You do not need to remove autism to make me into a full person. We are already people. Stop physically and emotionally mutilating people in the name of treatment.”

 

Neither set of self advocates are wrong. Both positions are legitimate and important to be aware of. In order to know what someone means by their language choices, you have to consider the context. 

 

http://realsocialskills.org/post/92439024532/autism-language-politics-and-history

I like that blog, that I got the quoted post from, a whole lot.  The author is autistic.  I find language politics stuff fascinating.

I prefer to be called autistic.  I also prefer to bend the English language to my purposes, and say that I am an ADHDer, or similar -- because to me, the developmental disorders (both are such) are pervasive, something I always am.  For me, it is very different to have bipolar disorder -- which I experience in particular ways heavily tinted by my developmental disorders.  I have problems with anxiety because I have bipolar disorder and tend anxious/agitated when manic, and also I am autistic and an ADHDer both leaving me with perseverence/obsessive tendencies and life experiences tending to anxiety.  Also, my overload can be translated to feeling anxious, especially sensory overload.  And how my anxiety can sometimes translate out as anger/fight response.

I don't need a rearrangement of words to remind myself that I am a person, in this instance.  I am an autistic person.  I am a queer person.  I am a trans person.  I am aromantic.  I am mentally ill.  I am a trauma survivor.  I find person-first language to be personally distancing, when it is so personally important that I be understood, when I speak of how pervasive and profound these experiences are.

I am not offended by person-first language used by others, it is a highly individualised choice, and I believe in respecting self-identified labels.  I am known to sometimes refer to myself as having autism, although I am more likely to refer to myself as having developmental disorders.  I both say that I am disabled, and that I have disabilities -- it dependsnonncontext.

I greatly dislike other people instructing me on how to refer to myself, which isn't happening here, but does happen to me and many autistics & people with autism & such.

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This is something I've got to get used to, it hasn't been made official yet but it's certain now. I'm autistic. I have depression, anxiety and psychosis but I'm autistic. It's part of my personality, it's what makes me who I am. 

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