Many people who have little knowledge of autism and relatives (especially parents) tend to dislike people referring to autistics as just "autistic" and often prefer that "person with autism" is used. Personally, I prefer to say that I am an autist rather than a person with autism. This is because autism is a big part of my personality and identity. 

Image: by Andy Dutton on Unsplash



This is what Sondre Bogen-Straume writes in his blog, where he writes a lot about autism. 

 

- Please, call me autistic, not a person with autism

He also writes: 

A study conducted in the UK in 2015 shows that 61% of autistic people prefer to say that they are "autistic" while only 18% preferred the use of "person with autism". 21% of those who took part in the study did not care if one or the other was said. In other words, 82% of autistic people either prefer the term "autist" / "autistic" beyong "having autism", or do not care about which term that is used.





He asks the question:

... why should neurotypical individuals (1) impose their neurotypical rules on us autistic?; (2) disencourage us from deciding these questions because "we don't know any better" (disqualification); (3) tell us right up in our face that we are "ill due to autism"; and (4) frame our identity is an illness and indirectly say that it must be cured.





A key point in the blog post is a principle in self-advocacy / empowerment: "nothing about us without us".

But this universal principle is broken every day, Bogen-Straume emphasizes.

A perspective that he draws out in this context is linked to identity first perspective, and he refers to articles from Autistic Self-Advocacy Network (ASAN) og Identity First Autistic which provides additional information on this.

 

Disagreement in preferences between autistic adults and professionals

To be clear, the study he cites, is summarized as follows:

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 open-ended 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.

Thus, it appears that Sondre Bogen-Straum has cited an important aspect of the findings, namely the disagreement in preference between professionals and autistic adults related to the use of terms such as "He/she has autism" or "He/she is autistic". On the other hand, the study could not demonstrate any single way of describing autism that is universally accepted.  

Nevertheless, his perspective is an important reminder that we need to consider what preference a given autistic individual has for how he/she wants to be mentioned.

 

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