Why Don’t We Use “Person First” Language?

At Parenting Autistic Children with Love and Acceptance we do not use “person first language”. We proudly use “identity first” language. You will not see us referring to our children as “having Autism”. They are Autistic. The Autistic Adults who are moderators on this page identify as being Autistic and ask that you refer to them in that way.

We are aware of the arguments that “person first” is more respectful and shows you value the person. We have heard the argument that “you wouldn’t call a person with cancer ‘cancerous’ so you shouldn’t call a person with Autism ‘Autistic’”. We know that a lot of parents say they won’t let Autism define their child and so refuse to refer to them as Autistic.

We choose to listen to the voices of Autistic adults and defer to their judgement.

Lydia says:

“In the autism community, many self-advocates and their allies prefer terminology such as ‘Autistic,’ ‘Autistic person,’ or ‘Autistic individual’ because we understand autism as an inherent part of an individual’s identity….. “

“…when people say ‘person with autism,’ it does have an attitudinal nuance. It suggests that the person can be separated from autism, which simply isn’t true. It is impossible to separate a person from autism, just as it is impossible to separate a person from the color of his or her skin.”

“’Autistic’ is another marker of identity. It is not inherently good, nor is it inherently bad. There may be aspects or consequences of my identity as an Autistic that are advantageous, useful, beneficial, or pleasant, and there may be aspects or consequences of my identity as an Autistic that are disadvantangeous, useless, detrimental, or unpleasant. But I am Autistic. I am also Asian, Chinese, American, Christian, Liberal, and female. 

These are not qualities or conditions that I have. They are part of who I am. Being Autistic does not subtract from my value, worth, and dignity as a person. Being Autistic does not diminish the other aspects of my identity. Being Autistic is not giving up on myself or limiting myself or surrendering to some debilitating monster or putting myself down. Being Autistic is like being anything else.”



Kassiane says:

“Now, why I feel the autism/cancer comparison is disrespectful. First, it’s disrespectful to autistic people. We don’t have something growing in us attempting to kill us. We don’t have a ‘devastating disease’ which, let’s face it, cancer usually is. We don’t require painful chemotherapy to stay alive. The cancer comparison is nothing but lazy writing and a way to promote funding to people trying to get rid of us.

You know who else it disrespects? People affected by cancer. Ask anyone who lost a child to cancer-they’d have that child back, autistic, cognitively challenged, it wouldn’t matter. Their child would be changed (in some cases almost to someone not the kid they remembered) but they would have their baby back. Ask anyone going through chemotherapy if there’s anything worse than this. Hell no. Cancer is expensive, cancer is exhausting, and cancer KILLS. Give the families a little respect. Give the people who actually HAVE cancer a little respect. “


Alyssa says:

Don’t Call Me a Person With Autism. Seriously, don’t. I also do not ‘have autism,’ nor am I ‘living with autism,’ ‘an adult living on the autism spectrum,’ or any other construction of that type outside obvious, labeled parody or satire. If you want to do so in such a parody, ask permission first. I am Autistic, I am an Autistic person, I am an Autistic adult, you see the pattern?”

(This link takes you to Alyssa’s post that has heaps of links to articles on this topic)

Giraffe Party says: 

“Autism is the term for our neurological wiring. We’re autistic; autistic being the adjective to describe a person with a particular neurological condition known as autism. Being that the condition is pervasive and effects every aspect of our lives, autistic is appropriate to describe us, much in the way gender is. We are born this way and it influences how we experience life.

Until YOU let go of the idea that it is a disease or something wrong with me, how will people see me as GiraffeParty-who-happens-to-be-autistic and not the stigma YOU create by insisting that I’m GiraffeParty-who-isn’t-defective-it’s-okay-please-ignore-her-autism-it-won’t-bite-I-promise?”



Although there are many parents who prefer to use “person first” language when referring to their children, there are many of us who do not. Here is what some parents of Autistic children have to say…

Deanne says:

“I’m female; I was born female and I always will be female. I think of myself as a woman; I don’t think of myself as living with femininity. In self-identifying as a woman and when people call me a woman, I feel good, not slighted. Is being female everything I am? No; I can be both gendered and an individual. In finding kinship with women I don’t somehow lose my personal identity. In speaking with and reading the writings of, adult autists and aspies, they view their autism in the same way as I view my gender. I haven’t yet come across an adult on the spectrum who refers to themselves as living with autism; on the contrary, in the same way that I’m proud to be a woman, they’re proud of their autism and have no qualms about referring to themselves as autistic.”


Beth says:

“I say I am happy. I say I am human. I say that I am female. These are all words that I use to identify myself as a person and to identify with other people. None of these words singularly define me. Would you ask me to say that I am ‘a person with femaleness‘? Nobody criticizes the use of these words because these words have positive associations associations in our culture.

Autism does not have positive associations with the population at large.  When I was questioning the use of a social therapy that I was not familiar with at our IEP meeting last week, I was told that it was used to work on ‘the deficits of Autism.’

We look at Autistic people as people with deficits.  That is truly offensive language and discriminatory thinking.  As long as we think of Autistic people as deficient or lacking in…humanity, we make it painstaking for an Autistic person to identify with and embrace a large part of his/her nature.” 


Michelle says: 

“After reading what Autistic adults I wanted to talk to my kids. MissG is too young to be able to understand the issues around this topic, so I haven’t talked to her about it. When she is older I will. MasterL is old enough to begin thinking about it. I asked him how he would like me to refer to him, and he said, ‘by my name’, which is a really good point! After some discussion, when I was sure he understood what I meant he said, ‘Sometimes I tell people I have Aspergers sometimes I say I am Autistic, but on the blog you can say I am Autistic.’ And that is enough for me. 

My children are Autistic.”


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