Person first language ?


15 person1st

Striving to use politically correct and non-discriminatory language is not a new thing in the context of disability parenting and, as with so many things, our perceptions of importance and meaning are various. I hadn’t really thought about it much, when I realized there is actually a ‘debate’ about it.. Here is a very comprehensive article by Lydia Brown about it HERE on her excellent blog Autistic Hoya.

4 thoughts on “Person first language ?

  1. Maria

    I am a 11 year-old with autism-I like to call myself autistic in front of adults to alter their percecption, as I am classified as a “well-behaved little professor”


    1. suburp Post author

      Hi Maria, thanks for you comment and view on this 🙂
      The term ‘little professor’ is something from a different time I think (when Hans Asperger first worked w autistic children) and telling adults you are indeed autistic and like to identify like that, is a very mature and insightful attitude from you. Bravo, because I think Autistics are the ones that can best teach about autism!
      My son Nemo is still in the process of understanding what it means for him to be autistic. He will say things like “I find this hard to understand – because of my autism.” I also try to make him see where “his autism” gives him perspectives that others might simply never have, to see the positives, too. But he is still figuring it out, and that’s ok.
      But i think it’s really important to accept how people want to identify and be referred to, once they have a preference.


  2. suburp Post author

    =) I don’t mind long comments at all ! and I really wanted to say exactly that in my comic, so I am glad that message came across. It really shouldn’t matter how we refer to our children, they are the same children however you call it. There are too many, much more important issues to tackle than these subjective semantic word games.. When autistic adult speaks up about it though, it should be normal to respect their preference!


  3. autisticook

    I have to admit I’m watching from the sidelines in this discussion. I call myself autistic, but I don’t make an issue of language use. I think you’ve summarised it pretty neatly here: ask a person for their preference. It only gets upsetting when someone else tell me I’m wrong for referring to myself to way I do.

    The reason I’m not taking a more forceful stance, like some really awesome activists (Lydia from Autistic Hoya, Alyssa from Yes, That Too, and Kassiane from Neurodivergent K, for example), is because I have the feeling that my own preference doesn’t really help parents. We can’t know what their child’s preference is until that child has thought about their own identity and how they want to be called. Until that time, parent-advocates have to sort of muddle along, either being told by groups like Autism Speaks that identity-first is disrespectful, or being told by Autistic activists that person-first is harmful. There doesn’t seem to be a middle way.

    I would like to tell parents that as long as they respect my own preference and don’t lecture me on it, I don’t think it should be an issue how they refer to their child. There are more important things to worry about, like what kind of services the child is getting, is the school team supportive or are they disregarding their needs, does the parent feel helplessness and despair or have they found a way to communicate in their child’s language, and so on and so on. I think it’s alright to concentrate on that and not stress out about what language you’re using when addressing your child’s needs.

    Sorry for the wall of text. I just meant to say I love how you’ve captured the essence of that in your comic and I got carried away! 🙂



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