ActuallyAutistic versus people first language
In another article we discussed ActuallyAutistic and what it means for self-advocacy and people diagnosed with autism. In this article we’ll discuss part of the reason ActuallyAutistic became a thing. The community has shifted from separating themselves from their diagnosis to embracing all facets of their identity; including being autistic. People first language developed as a means to destigmatize having a mental illness or a disability but putting the person in the forefront and referencing the disability like you would any other medical condition. For example, someone with cancer is exactly that, someone with cancer. They are not a “canceristic” person. The ARC describes people first language as
Disability is not the “problem.” For example, a person who wears glasses doesn’t say, “I have a problem seeing,” they say, “I wear/need glasses.” Similarly, a person who uses a wheelchair doesn’t say, “I have a problem walking,” they say, “I use/need a wheelchair.” Our words and the meanings we attach to them create attitudes, drive social policies and laws, influence our feelings and decisions, and affect people’s daily lives and more. How we use them makes a difference. People First Language puts the person before the disability, and describes what a person has, not who a person is. Using a diagnosis as a defining characteristic reflects prejudice, and also robs the person of the opportunity to define him/herself.
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In general, this makes sense. Break the stigma of having a diagnosis by putting the focus on the person.
I am all of me
Many within the autistic community embrace their diagnosis as a distinguishing characteristic just like any other part of their personality. They see being autistic as nothing more than another part of their being, not a burden. They recognize the different ways they process the world and want to be accepted for it. No pity. Nothing special. Just accepted as any other person living their life. Sometimes kooky. Sometimes strangely “normal.” But always themselves. Nothing more. Nothing less.
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