autistic person vs. person w/autism - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 19 Old 03-21-2008, 02:41 PM - Thread Starter
 
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can anyone here shed light on which of these two terms is most appropriate. i've read some issues on both sides, but thought i'd bring it to the experts!
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#2 of 19 Old 03-21-2008, 02:44 PM
 
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I was wondering too. I always use people first with my daughter who has down syndrome so i do the same with people who have autism etc. But i was just reading a Newsweek article about autism and a self-advocate in the article said he prefers to be called an autistic person.
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#3 of 19 Old 03-21-2008, 03:15 PM
 
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I prefer autistic or aspie. Autistic is a description of how I experience life, not an indicator of a medical condition.

If someone drew a pretty picture you would say "That is an artistic person". If someone played a sweet guitar solo you would say "That is a musical person".
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#4 of 19 Old 03-21-2008, 03:22 PM
 
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Well most folks in the disability rights/activism role prefer to hear "person with X" rather than "disabled" or "mentally retarded" or whatever. They prefer to recognize that they are PEOPLE first who happen to have whatever condition.

That being said, those in the deaf community and some in the blind community prefer "deaf" or "blind" rather than "person with hearing impairment" or whatever because they identify with deaf as an integral part of who they are and what their cultural background is (like any ethnicity).

That confusing enough?

So I guess I would probably default to "person with autism" unless someone who had autism corrected me about what they wish to be called.

hth
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#5 of 19 Old 03-21-2008, 03:23 PM
 
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Some people (mostly autistic adults) prefer one; others (mostly parents of children with autism) prefer the other. This article gives some explanation of the reasoning behind the preference. For myself, I will say that I am autistic or that I have an ASC. When describing my 8 yr old (online--she's not out in person), I refer to her as autistic or, though grammatically incorrect, I'll say that she "is ASC" or "is an ASC child."

None of these variants--autistic, autistic person, person with autism, person who has autism, person with ASC--bother me or offend me or any such (though it does amuse me when people go to word-twisting lengths to avoid the word "autistic"). The only terms that offend me are "suffers from autism" and "disorder."
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#6 of 19 Old 03-21-2008, 03:29 PM
 
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Originally Posted by hippymomma69 View Post
That being said, those in the deaf community and some in the blind community prefer "deaf" or "blind" rather than "person with hearing impairment" or whatever because they identify with deaf as an integral part of who they are and what their cultural background is (like any ethnicity).
Yes, this is the reasoning for autistics who prefer to be called autistic as well.
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#7 of 19 Old 03-21-2008, 03:30 PM
 
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The politically correct term is "person with autism" or "child on the autism spectrum". I have 3 relatives with autism and one of my sisters and her husband started a foundation for children with developmental disabilities (PDDs); they are very picky about this terminology as is everyone at their daughters school for children with autism and PDDs.

Similarly, it not PC to call someone a cripple, we use "disabled" or "handicapped" or "differently abled". And it is PC to say someone "has Downs Syndrome" not "is a Downs baby" or "Downs child". Etc. etc. etc.

But if someone states a preference for being called "autistic" then obviously go with that! But I think the default should always initially be the more PC terminology.

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#8 of 19 Old 03-21-2008, 03:35 PM
 
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The politically correct term is "person with autism". I have 3 relatives with autism and one of my sisters and her husband started a foundation for children with developmental disabilities (PDDs); they are very picky about this terminology as is everyone at their daughters school for children with autism and PDDs.
Sorry to serial post and to repeat myself, but, yes, this is the politically correct term for parents of autistic children (children with autism) and those who teach them. One of the reasons that some autistic people prefer to be called autistic is because they are frustrated with what is and isn't politically correct when it comes to autism being decided exclusively by non-autistics, especially non-autistics with an agenda towards curing or eradicating autism. It's identity theft. Generally people over age 18 are permitted to speak for themselves rather than have their parents speak for them. Yet in the case of autistics, the voice of autism is established as being parents and teachers of autistic people rather than autistic people themselves.
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#9 of 19 Old 03-21-2008, 03:47 PM
 
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I say "Bede is autistic" as a preference, and I think of it the same way I would say "Bede is right handed."

I can say "Bede has right handedness" but it sure sounds strange.

I don't think of autism as being separate from him. If you somehow took the autism out of Bede, he'd be incomplete, not completed. It's why I don't like the missing puzzle piece representation of autism.
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#10 of 19 Old 03-21-2008, 04:27 PM
 
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Originally Posted by Brigianna View Post
Sorry to serial post and to repeat myself, but, yes, this is the politically correct term for parents of autistic children (children with autism) and those who teach them. One of the reasons that some autistic people prefer to be called autistic is because they are frustrated with what is and isn't politically correct when it comes to autism being decided exclusively by non-autistics, especially non-autistics with an agenda towards curing or eradicating autism. It's identity theft. Generally people over age 18 are permitted to speak for themselves rather than have their parents speak for them. Yet in the case of autistics, the voice of autism is established as being parents and teachers of autistic people rather than autistic people themselves.
Okay so I now stand corrected and will use the descriptor "autistic" Always better to hear it straight from the person who identifies that way....than the media.

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#11 of 19 Old 03-21-2008, 05:34 PM
 
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Originally Posted by ShaggyDaddy View Post
I prefer autistic or aspie. Autistic is a description of how I experience life, not an indicator of a medical condition.

If someone drew a pretty picture you would say "That is an artistic person". If someone played a sweet guitar solo you would say "That is a musical person".

I'd suggest that perhaps all three are subjective judgments.



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#12 of 19 Old 03-21-2008, 05:36 PM
 
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We prefer to refer to my son as "our son Mark". If we are talking about his label, we'll say "he's autistic". It simply sounds better to us that way. It's so intergral to his entire being that I can't say it any other way.

But my oldest son calls him "annoying" and "pest", and I often call him "wrecking ball John", so I guess your label really depends on who you're talking to!
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#13 of 19 Old 03-21-2008, 05:50 PM
 
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A lot of the times it is more important how it is said than the actual words. Like a PP mentioned, using adjectives like "suffers from" or "trapped by" and the like, it is MUCH more offensive than either "has autism" or "is autistic".

I tend to refer to my own child as "being autistic", which lines up more with what Feebee said, and the neurodiversity movement. When I am talking to other people and I don't know their political stance, I sometimes revert to the "has autism" if it fits better into the conversation, but I usually stick with "is autistic" most of the time.

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#14 of 19 Old 03-21-2008, 08:39 PM
 
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I wrote about this very issue a while back here When I was in undergrad taking a special education class (exceptional children) our teacher made a big point about person-first language. In grad school (psychology) were were also taught that according to the professional code of ethics, person-first language was the standard. That said, I don't recall EVER hearing a colleague use person-first language and I admit that it really bothered/bothers me. I think that it just creates an additional feeling of distance from the person in question when you constantly refer to them as "the autictic kid in my class" or "the schizophrenic I see on Thursday."

I agree of course that if people have a preference for how they refer to themselves or how they take ownership of their diagnosis (e.g. the Deaf community) then of course it is appropriate to respect it. That said, even though I'm the first to say and admit that I'm tall, for instance, it would begin to bother me if everyone always referred to me as "the tall woman" whenever they spoke of me.
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#15 of 19 Old 03-21-2008, 10:24 PM - Thread Starter
 
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okay, thinking out loud here, trying to process....

i, too, am a "people first" proponent. i am a special ed teacher, but i'm wondering if it isn't different here. like w/race issues. most of my friends and what i see in the media, african-americans would prefer to be referred to black people or african american person vs. "person of color" b/c they believe their color is inherent to who they are, they experience the world through their skin color and are proud of their heritage. perhaps those, at least in the MDC, community are feeling this way??

but then, i'm also thinking of my son and not wanting to view him as an autistic child b/c it sometimes handicaps ME. for example, we were having a major issue, it was affecting our whole family, i was so frustrated and not sure i could face every day the rest of our lives w/this. i was talking to a friend of mine who has a typically-developing child and she said her son was going through the exact same thing! so here i was limiting my child to what i believed was his autism, but was really just developmental.

maybe i'm comparing apples to oranges here as my first scenario applies to adults and the second to my child, but i am wondering if it would be considered appropriate if only autistic people called themselves that (b/c they are viewing outwardly through that lens) and the rest of us referred to them as people who have autism (b/c we are viewing them through the lens the opposite way)? i don't know, still trying to reach the dark recesses of my mind here, please continue to share your views. it is important to me that i understand.
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#16 of 19 Old 03-21-2008, 10:44 PM
 
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I am not offended when I hear "person with autism," however I say and prefer "autistic person." Being pretentious, I also often use "autist," as in my senior title.

I am offended by "suffers from autism," "stricken by the tragedy of autism," and so forth.
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#17 of 19 Old 03-22-2008, 02:54 AM
 
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Originally Posted by dkeoshian View Post
okay, thinking out loud here, trying to process....

i, too, am a "people first" proponent. i am a special ed teacher, but i'm wondering if it isn't different here. like w/race issues. most of my friends and what i see in the media, african-americans would prefer to be referred to black people or african american person vs. "person of color" b/c they believe their color is inherent to who they are, they experience the world through their skin color and are proud of their heritage. perhaps those, at least in the MDC, community are feeling this way??

but then, i'm also thinking of my son and not wanting to view him as an autistic child b/c it sometimes handicaps ME. for example, we were having a major issue, it was affecting our whole family, i was so frustrated and not sure i could face every day the rest of our lives w/this. i was talking to a friend of mine who has a typically-developing child and she said her son was going through the exact same thing! so here i was limiting my child to what i believed was his autism, but was really just developmental.

maybe i'm comparing apples to oranges here as my first scenario applies to adults and the second to my child, but i am wondering if it would be considered appropriate if only autistic people called themselves that (b/c they are viewing outwardly through that lens) and the rest of us referred to them as people who have autism (b/c we are viewing them through the lens the opposite way)? i don't know, still trying to reach the dark recesses of my mind here, please continue to share your views. it is important to me that i understand.
Your child will become an adult, so I don't think it's apples and oranges at all.

The thing about "person-first" is that in English (unlike, for example, French), the adjective comes before the noun it modifies. So the more important word in an adjective-noun phrase is actually the second word. The first word is a descriptor. The concept can also be rephrased with the descriptor as a phrase or clause following the noun, but the relationship is still one between noun and modifier. In the terms "autistic person," "person with autism," and "person who has autism," the descriptors "autistic," "with autism," and "who has autism" are modifying the noun "person." One phrasing does not attribute the modifier more significance than another. So to insist on "person-first" as actual word order for the sake of emphasizing the noun rather than the modifier does not necessarily correlate to the grammatical function of word order in conventional English linguistic structure.
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#18 of 19 Old 03-22-2008, 10:46 AM
 
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I once heard the idea somewhere that you can tell how uncofortable a culture is with something by how many euphemisms a society makes for it and how quickly the old euphemisms start to be considered offensive. And there are lots of things in our society that, if you talk about them often, somebody somewhere will tell you that you are using the wrong words.

I use autistic because I found Jim Sinclair's article that Brigianna linked to, as well as the writings of other autists, very convincing on that score. If a person I was talking to preferred different language regarding their own experience (as opposed to telling me how they were taught in a workshop that I should talk about my child), I would change the way I spoke in their presence. That's just basic respect, IMO.

I also think that people make an adjective into a noun in a way that gets offensive, as if you make the diagnosis into their name ("that schizophrenic in my class on Tuesdays"). And anything said with a disrespectful, dismissive, or resentful tone is offensive or more offensive because of the tone.

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#19 of 19 Old 03-22-2008, 03:41 PM
 
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I once heard the idea somewhere that you can tell how uncofortable a culture is with something by how many euphemisms a society makes for it and how quickly the old euphemisms start to be considered offensive. And there are lots of things in our society that, if you talk about them often, somebody somewhere will tell you that you are using the wrong words.
Exactly--the euphemism treadmill. Also, the less descriptive a euphemism has to be in order to be acceptable, the less acceptable the concept itself must be. There is a trend now towards not using "autism" at all, using "pervasive developmental disorder" instead. This annoys me greatly. First of all, "disorder," which I don't believe it is, and secondly, "PDD" doesn't actually tell you anything about the nature of the condition. It's pervasive and it's developmental. Okay, we get that, but what is it? "Autism" at least derives from the Greek autos, self. So autistic people are more self-focused where others are more socially-focused. There is at least an attempt there to describe the nature of the actual condition.


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I use autistic because I found Jim Sinclair's article that Brigianna linked to, as well as the writings of other autists, very convincing on that score. If a person I was talking to preferred different language regarding their own experience (as opposed to telling me how they were taught in a workshop that I should talk about my child), I would change the way I spoke in their presence. That's just basic respect, IMO.

I also think that people make an adjective into a noun in a way that gets offensive, as if you make the diagnosis into their name ("that schizophrenic in my class on Tuesdays"). And anything said with a disrespectful, dismissive, or resentful tone is offensive or more offensive because of the tone.

Sherri
I think this depends on the context as well--no one wants to be the token autistic or the token anything, but the noun isn't intrinsically demeaning. We have no problem using "men" or "women" instead of "male persons" or "female persons." We can say "farmer" instead of "person who farms." In most cases, it is assumed that the person being referenced is a person, so there is no need to specify that the person is a person. However, used as a person's sole identity, or as a token, it can often be demeaning.

It's similar in this way to ethnicity and the fraught descriptions thereof. "I saw this Black guy"--offensive, because of the assumption that this is his only significant trait. "Bob is 5'9", Black, short hair, wearing a blue jacket"--not offensive at all.
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