By now, I would imagine that we have all heard about the person first language. Basically, the premise of this is that you put the person before the disorder.
As I understand it, addressing someone in the person first language would go something like this. This is my son Johnny, he has Autism.
The point is that some people feel that if you were to say something like, This is my son Johnny and he’s autistic, or This is my Autistic son Johnny, that you are identifying them by the disorder and not who they are as a person.
To me, I’ve always felt this was really silly and honestly, kinda petty.
If you speak to an adult with Autism, more often than not they prefer to be called Autistic.
So I suppose the question I have is this.
Who’s the person first language really benefiting?
Think about it, if most adults with Autism, prefer to be called Autistic, than why the need for the person first language in the first place?
There’s always going to be someone who prefers a different terminology but does that mean that we have to make a huge deal out of the semantics of Autism?
Here’s my thoughts on this issue.
For starters, I really think the main reason we see people push for the person first language is because wenot they are more comfortable using it, especially when referring to our own children.
I know that some people get really upset when they hear a child referred to as Autistic. It seems as though they feel that using the word Autistic is defining the person. They would rather hear so and so has autism or so and so is a person living with Autism instead.
I really think this has more to do with them and less to do with the person on the spectrum.
In my opinion, the person first language, while good intentioned, does an injustice to the Autism community.
When we put so much effort into making sure that the person comes before the disorder, we give the impression that there’s something wrong with being Autistic. In a day and age when the community is asking for acceptance and understanding, what message is the person first language sending the rest of the world?
Instead of doing what makes us more comfortable with Autism, why not let those who are actually Autistic be our guide?
Personally, I use the words interchangeably because they both mean the same thing to me. Depending on the context of the conversation, I might say my kids are Autistic. I might also sayI have three boys with Autism.
Having said that, I hardly ever use the word Autism or autistic in real life, unless I’m speaking about the condition.
When I introduce my kids, I say these are my kids, Gavin, Elliott and Emmett.
I just feel like we spend way too much time worrying about things that in the big picture, are that important. When you look back on your life are you going to be like, yeah, I feel great because I made sure that my son or daughter was never called Autistic? I would think that when you look back on your life, you would want to know that you did everything you could to give your child the brightest future possible.
When I look back on my life, I want to know that did everything I could for my kids and I did the things that really truly mattered.
Look, I respect the right of anyone to think and do what they feel is right. I don’t have to agree with you to give you that respect. I just want to create a dialog and see what everyone thinks.
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i never understood the point of it either. When someone has diabeties or epilepsy they call the person with the condition “Diabetic” or “Epileptic”. So why is autism so different? It’s a word. I prefer to be called autistic, because my autism has helped shape my personality and who I am. But Im not going to jump down someone’s throat for them saying ‘You have autism’ instead.
Silachan well said.