The use of identity-first language (autistic person) and person-first language (person with autism) is a huge debate in the community. Professionals are trained to use person-first language, based on the thinking that it emphasises the person rather than the disability. There is a lot of academic theory which tries to explain what is and is not the correct thing to do, but for me as an autistic person, it boils down to this: I would not be who I am without autism. It shapes how I perceive and meet the world around me, as well as how I think. It makes no sense to me that autism should be separated from me, or I from it, because it is a part of who I am. Importantly, I am not ashamed of being autistic, nor do I believe others should be.
I am not opposed to the use of either form of language, however. Every person should be allowed to make their own choice about what they prefer, and have that choice be respected. My wish is that professionals may come to a point of asking what each person prefers, rather than assuming that one is better overall.
When I write or speak about autism, I often use the terms interchangeably as makes most sense in the structure of each particular sentence. I do this because I do not want either term to be taboo or feel 'risky' to use. The important part for me, is that the terms are used with respect to the people being discussed. Hence, when judging whether to feel offended, I look at the context, content, and tone of what is being said.
Some people do use the word as a slur or put-down, unfortunately. My opinion is that almost any word can be used offensively, as a derogatory and a tool for social exclusion. What makes it offensive in some cases has to do with context, tone and intent.
When, for example, people say that someone is "a bit autistic" to mean that they are unempathetic, a bit socially awkward, or even unintelligent, this use of the word is offensive to many, because it implies that someone is autistic because of a single (often undesirable) trait. We understand that autism is so much more than this, and includes a number of strengths and talents, and because of this, hearing others reduce it to something unrelated to diagnosis and something undesirable, is offensive to our perspective.
Because I have a hard time keeping points short, basically. I have had people be upset when I was not nuanced enough, and others when I ramble on for too long. When nuance or explanations are lacking, misunderstandings are more prone to happen, and at some point in my life, I began making perhaps too much of an effort to avoid this. This means that now, when speaking or writing about something, I tend to keep at it until I feel that I have been thorough enough. This tends to be a good 25 minutes after everyone else.
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