A major theme of this book is that just about everything concerning autism is subject to argument. There is not even any consensus on what one should call people who have autism and other disabilities. “In the autism community, many self-advocates and their allies prefer terms such as `Autistic,’ `Autistic person,’ or `Autistic individual’ because we understand autism as an inherent part of an individual’s identity,” writes blogger Lydia Brown.[i] Other writers prefer “people-first” language (e.g., “persons with autism”) since it puts the persons ahead of the disability and describes what they have, not who they are.[ii] For the sake of stylistic variety, this book uses both kinds of language, even though this approach will satisfy neither side. I can only say that I mean no offense.At Autism, Lorcan Kenney and colleagues have an article titled, "Which Terms Should Be Used To Describe Autism? Perspectives From The UK Autism Community." The abstract:
[i] Lydia Brown, “The Significance of Semantics: Person-First Language: Why It Matters,” Autistic Hoya, August 4, 2001. Online: http://autisticadvocacy.org/identity-first-language/
[ii] Kathie Snow, “A Few Words about People-First Language,” Disability Is Natural. Online: http://www.disabilityisnatural.com/images/PDF/pfl-sh09.pdf
Recent public discussions suggest that there is much disagreement about the way autism is and should be described. This study sought to elicit the views and preferences of UK autism community members – autistic people, parents and their broader support network – about the terms they use to describe autism. In all, 3470 UK residents responded to an
online survey on their preferred ways of describing autism and their rationale for such preferences. The results clearly show that people use many terms to describe autism. The most highly endorsed terms were ‘autism’ and ‘on the autism spectrum’, and to a lesser extent, ‘autism spectrum disorder’, for which there was consensus across community groups. The groups disagreed, however, on the use of several terms. The term ‘autistic’ was endorsed by a large percentage of autistic adults, family members/friends and parents but by considerably fewer professionals; ‘person with autism’ was endorsed by almost half of professionals but by fewer autistic adults and parents. Qualitative analysis of an openended question revealed the reasons underlying respondents’ preferences. These findings demonstrate that there is no single way of describing autism that is universally accepted and preferred by the UK’s autism community and that some
disagreements appear deeply entrenched.