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Labels Are Valuable Tools

Maxfield Sparrow unstrangemind.com There’s something that kind-hearted and well-meaning people say that can hurt. And it usually goes like this: “Let’s go around the circle and introduce ourselves.” “Hi, my name is Max. I’m a writer, artist, musician, and public speaker. I live in a van with my cat, Fermat, and I am Autistic.” “Oh, Max, I don’t think you should call yourself autistic. Labels are for soup cans, not people! You’re such a sweet, intelligent man. You don’t need to use that label on yourself any more. We all accept you here. You’re just like us and seem totally normal to us. Don’t label yourself.” [Image description: A bowl of alphabet soup with the word “Autistic” made of alphabet noodles floating in it.] The person who says “Don’t label yourself“ is trying to be progressive and enlightened and kind and accepting. It is so hard to tell them that…

Person First: An Evolution in Thinking

Jess at Diary of a Mom www.adiaryofamom.wordpress.com If you were to sit down and read my blog Diary of a Mom from its inception back in 2008, I’m sure  you’d notice some pretty dramatic changes. Many of the words I use and the way I use them have changed. And the change in verbiage is reflective of a change — an evolution really — in my understanding of autism. When Brooke was first diagnosed, I bristled at the word ‘autistic’ when it was assigned to her in conversation. I actually found it offensive. “Person first!” I would shout in my head as I calmly responded, “my daughter HAS autism,” emphatically yet (theoretically) politely ‘correcting’ the perceived gaffe. And then, somewhere along the line, I read THIS: Jim Sinclair’s Why I Dislike ‘Person First’ Language. And something shifted. I had never considered the words nor what they represented from the inside…

Person-First Language: Why It Matters (The Significance of Semantics)

Lydia Brown autistichoya.blogspot.com At the Adult Services Subcommittee’s final meeting in late July, much to do was made about semantic disagreements — “ASD individual” versus “individual with ASD,” and of course, the dreaded “person with autism” or “person who has autism” versus “autistic person.” These issues of semantics are hot button issues, and rightfully so. Words and language are powerful tools by which an individual can express ideas, whether abstract, actionable, or concrete. As a writer and editor, I know firsthand that language and the meanings we attach to words very much impact, influence, develop, and change the attitudes that we have toward the subjects of discussion. That is why people are easily insulted or upset by word choices. Changing a phrase — even if it holds the same literal meaning — alters the subtle connotations and nuances of the speech, and communicates a different meaning and context than the…

‘Autistic’ or ‘Person With Autism’?

Jean Winegardner www.stimeyland.com When I write my column Autism Unexpected for Washington Times Communities, I use the words “person with autism” and “autistic person” pretty interchangeably. Every once in a while, I get a comment telling me I should use “person first” language, meaning I shouldn’t use the word “autistic” to describe a person. Because I’ve heard this criticism more than once, I feel it necessary to tell you that I not only use the word “autistic” intentionally, but thoughtfully and with purpose. The theory behind person-first language (“person with autism”) is that it recognizes the person before the disability and stresses that there is more to a person than just autism. I asked my blog readers and my Twitter followers which they preferred, and the majority, mostly parents of children with autism, reported that they prefer the person-first terminology. Person-first language is an easy philosophy to accept. It makes…