Language can unite us and create shared meanings that bring us together, as well as providing a force for positive change.
For the Autistic community, like all communities, there are different opinions and preferences for the language that is used. Understanding and respecting what these are can make a big impact on how we can increase understanding and inclusion for the autism community.
At Amaze we have given careful consideration to the language we use and above all we come from a position of respect. Amaze respects the rights of all individuals to choose the language that best resonates with them and the way they identify with autism.
We work in partnership and share content from others. We respect their right to use the language they prefer. You may see a mix of identity-first and person-first language used in content on our website and this reflects the author’s preference.
For many years now Amaze has taken a strengths-based approach and aimed to use more positive and assertive language.
In line with our preference for strengths-based language, we are adopting the use of a capital A for the word Autistic. Using the capital letter when using the word as a proper adjective or noun to represent our community is a sign of respect. This is similar to how other communities use capitalisation to acknowledge identity, for example the Deaf community who use the capital letter for those who identify culturally as Deaf and are actively engaged with the Deaf community.
Based on feedback from the Autistic community, including research on the preferences of Autistic people, their families, friends, and professionals around the language used to describe autism, in our materials we typically use ‘identity-first’ first terminology (i.e. ‘Autistic person’) instead of person first terminology (i.e. ‘person with autism’).
For many, the preference for identity-first language such as ‘Autistic’ is because it places autism as intrinsic to a person’s identity and character. Others prefer person-first language, such as ‘person with autism’, because it places the primary focus on the individual by centering their identity as a person. This similar to other disability sectors that prefer ‘person first’ language as they say their disability does not define them.
Our Autism Inclusion Monitor (Autistic Experiences Survey) found that while almost two-thirds of Autistic participants indicated a preference for identity-first language, the comments showed a very strong emphasis on the importance of respecting people’s personal preferences.
Overall, we aim to take an inclusive approach. We recognise that the autism community is comprised of people with a diverse range of backgrounds, talents and challenges. Our purpose is to work with, be here for, and support all Autistic people of all ages and their families and supporters, regardless of any specific diagnoses, capabilities and challenges.
Keating CT, Hickman L, Leung J, Monk R, Montgomery A, Heath H and Sowden S (2022) ‘Autism-related language preferences across the globe: A mixed methods investigation’, Autism Research, 1-23, https://doi.org/10.1002/aur.2864