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Tuesday, August 3, 2010


Should we write "autistic person" or "person with autism"? At The Washington Times, Jean Winegardner writes:

The theory behind person first language ("person with autism") is that it recognizes the person before the disability and stresses that there is more to a person than just autism. I asked my blog readers and my twitter followers which they preferred and the majority, mostly parents of children with autism, reported that they prefer the person first terminology.

Person first language is an easy philosophy to accept. It makes complete sense, and I find it to be a perfectly reasonable way of thought. However, I tend not to prefer it. The reasons for rejecting person first are more complicated, but, I believe, equally valid.

I use the adjective "autistic" for several reasons. I have taken my cues from many autistic adults who self-identify as autistic. For these individuals, autism is simply a part of them that cannot be separated from who they are. Autism is, in a way, a description of how their brains work, not something that has been added to their being. Without autism, they would not be the same person, therefore it is not something they have, but rather something they are.

Autistic adult and autism activist Jim Sinclair wrote a very clear, articulate essay about why he dislikes person first language. This essay lays out why he identifies as an autistic person, and his reasons are very similar to mine.