Though we are part of a larger disability community, it’s important for us all to be aware of preferences and variations within disability-specific cultures. CPWD supports the autism community’s advocacy efforts to have April officially recognized as Autism Acceptance (not Awareness) Month and to use identity-first language for autistic people (vs. people with autism). When in doubt, check with the individual on the language they’d like used regarding and around them. To learn more, please read, watch, and explore the various resources below.
Image Description:It's not enough to be aware of autism — we should accept, support, respect and include autistic people. Source
The Autism Community's Language Preferences
Acceptance vs. Awareness:
“Autism Acceptance Month was created by and for the autistic community to change the conversation around autism, shifting it away from stigmatizing ‘autism awareness’ language that presents autism as a threat to be countered with vigilance. Ten years ago, when Autism Acceptance Month started, advocacy organizations run by non-autistic people spoke openly about working towards a future in which ‘autism’ is a word for the history belong — that we deserve welcoming communities, inclusive schools and workplaces, and equal opportunities. In the last ten years, we have seen real progress. Many autism organizations run by non-autistic people initially resisted ‘acceptance’ language; over time, some of them have come to adopt it. We welcome this change."
– Autistic Self Advocacy Network
Identity-first vs. Person-first:
“Person-first language has had some unintended consequences. For some, it implied a negative value to disability. We don’t use person-first language when traits are highly valued. For example, we don’t say, ‘Person with intelligence,’ we say, ‘She’s an intelligent person.’ We don’t say, ‘Person with charm,’ we say, ‘He’s so charming!’
Identity-first language makes it clear that autism is integral to a person’s identity. As one autistic adult told me, ‘I can’t remove my autism — it’s who I am and how I think.’ For her, identity-first language makes sense.” – Brenda Dater (https://www.aane.org/lets-talk-language-autism/)
NOTE: Though Centers for Independent Living (CILs) generally advocate for person-first language, this subject can be complex and intertwined with other issues disability groups face, like attitudinal barriers. We encourage you to keep learning about and discussing this topic, while respecting the wishes of individuals and communities.