Person with autism or Autistic Person

Should we say “with autism” or “autistic” when talking about our children or adults on the spectrum?

Something not many parents think about when they talk about autism.  What should I say?  Should I say “with autism” or “autistic” when talking about my child or an adult on the spectrum?

Many diagnosed with autism prefer using the term “autistic” to describe themselves – this is known as identity-first language.  For example: “I am autistic”. They also feel that with autism, as with all things, how people speak about it reflects how they think or feel about it, their priorities in relation to it, and what they believe to be the truth of it.

But for some the person-first language is still preferred which will be for example:  “my child has autism”.  Many mom bloggers, medical professionals and teachers still use “with autism” as it puts the person before the disease.

They often feel that writing about their “diabetic son” or “cancerous patient” is cringe-worthy, and that autism is no different.

A recent study has however found that most autistic adults, their family, and friends all preferred the identity-first language approach.  The reason for this is because they feel that autism is part of their identity not a condition or illness and not something they have that needs to be treated.

Ilse Kilian-Ross

Ilse Kilian-Ross is the owner of Amazing K, a registered ECD and Partial Care Facility in Johannesburg. Amazing K is a private adhd school, autism school and therapy centre for children from age 2 - 6 years where learners receive the best of both the schooling and therapy world. The autism school offers Individualized Education Programs, Speech- and Augmentive Alternative Communication (AAC) therapy as well as a full and adapted Academic Curriculum.