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Do we say "Autistic Person" or "Person with Autism"?

Many professionals, like educators and physicians, use Person-First Language (PFL), ex. "person with autism". The goal of PFL was to eliminate assumptions and stereotypes by focusing on the person rather than the disability. However, during the 1990s, self advocacy within the disability movement began to take stride. The Deaf and Blind community began pushing for Identity-First language (IFL) - "blind person" rather than a "person with visual impairment". As a result of the Deaf and Blind community's efforts, using the terminology "blind person" is now considered the most appropriate usage.


The autistic community took inspiration from the Deaf and Blind community and has been fighting for IFL (ex. "autistic person") since the late 1990s. Their efforts have finally gained momentum in the last five years. Similarly, like the Deaf and Blind community, most autistic adults prefer IFL because they believe they experience their world through their disability, making it a major contributor to who they are. They believe autism shouldn’t be separated from them as a person. 

Learn more from a webinar made with GoManda founder, Dr. Celest Austin and CASE (Council of Administrators of Special Education) director, Phyllis Wolfram.

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