Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Autistic or with Autism

"Is he autistic or with autism? Seriously, what do you call him?" 

Well mainly I call him by his name, which I'm not sharing here.  You have to trust it's a really good name.  I think he's like the only one of his whole school that has it too and it's not anything weird like "Apple".  Although now that I think of it, perhaps naming him "Potato" would of been more our speed.  My husband calls him "Champ" and when I'm not calling him "Kiddo" I'm calling him "Monkey Butt" because it makes him laugh.  He then calls me "Hey Monkey Butt!" back, picking great times to do it like out at the grocery store or at a therapy waiting room.  What can I say?  We're a little odd in our humor here.

Anywho, I'm guessing you really mean do I say my son with autism or my autistic son.  Honestly, I use both when talking about him.  Back and forth.  All over the place willy nilly.  Why? Simply because I can and I really don't know what his preference is regarding it.  I'm not even sure the Kiddo knows he is autistic or has autism.  We certainly don't hide the word around here and seeing as he is an only child, the autism way is the only way we roll. 

I used to use the whole "person first" language pretty much exclusively.  The great bonus feature of starting this blog is I've gotten to talk to a lot of folks with autism! Imagine that! Time and time again, I see that many of them prefer the term autistic.   Who am I tell them "No you can't call yourself that." It's quite possible my kiddo might be thinking the same way as these other autistic adults.  Or maybe not.  I'm not really sure.  I mean for all I know my kiddo might identify solely with just being a french fry eating fiend.  I know his autism doesn't define him but it sure is a part of him.  He could go a day without eating a french fry(although it would protested loudly, I assure you) but there is never going to be a day where he won't be autistic or with autism or however you want to say it. 

If my kiddo comes home one day and says "Mama, I prefer it THIS WAY!" then that's the way I'm probably going to continue to do it when talking about HIM.  I'm not going to deny him that request. I'm also trying to make an effort as I get to know folks with autism or autistic what it is they prefer.  I know!  That's a lot of extra info to pack in my rapidly aging mind but to me, I think I can do that.  If I can remember that a person prefers their nickname to the name on their birth certificate, this isn't much different than that.  Maybe this is my Irish (or with Irish decent) background into play here.  We are forever naming our kids one name yet call them another. (No seriously.  We do this a lot.  My mom found out her aunt's real name at her aunt's funeral.  Someday I'm hoping my mom might tell me my real one!)

All I know is I'm just trying to honor everyone's request.  Autistic or with Autism.  I'm sure I'm going to muck it up.  I'll piss someone off.  Know that it comes from a good place and correct me with what you prefer if I screw it up.  We'll move on and order another side of fries. 


  1. I the individual which term they'd prefer I use -- my nephew prefers Aspie, others prefer "with autism" or "autistic".

    What I really, really, really do not like is the "word police" -- like the "people first" folks, who insist everybody should use "person with autism"... even if the person on the spectrum in question prefers "autistic".

  2. I think people should mind their own business...I will say it however it comes out of my mouth...he's autistic ...he has autism.... he's on the spectrum....whatever!?!?! If one day "HE" decides to show a preference, and I hope he doesn't ...because we don't want to raise another politically correct person...we have way to many of those in the world already.....but if HE does, then like you we will honor HIS request. In the mean time ...It's not anyone elses business how I address my child.

  3. I feel like approaching it from an attitude of respect makes either decision correct.

  4. I tend to use first person in general, unless the person described says differently. Talking about my son, I use person with Aspergers, because that is how he chooses to be described. I have referred to myself as an long as we treat each other with respect-that is what matters.

  5. Interesting post. I do use both too. The beauty of autism/autistic is that both are grammatically correct and not awkward. Like, with other disabilities/conditions, one or the other would be awkward. For example, I oncce read a story in a magazine about a "vaginistic" woman rather than a woman "with vaginismus". That sounded really bad to me. On the other hand, I am blind, and you pretty much need to call me a blind person or you'd either say nonsense ("person with blindness") or get long-winded ("person who is blind").

  6. My daughter knows she is a person with autism. . Or who is autistic. .whatever...hey at the moment I am just trying to get her to understand she is someone with this... not "Mum...I am autism right?".... yeah 4 years of correction in this.... I'm still going.... it will happen. .............. maybe!

  7. Thank you for this. I use both. I think folks get to caught up in semantics. Whenever someone tries to correct me for saying autistic, I tell them I know adults on the spectrum who prefer to be called that way. BOOM!

  8. I wasn't aware this was a thing...really? We've got bigger fish to fry or in our case; potatoes to fry ;)

  9. If I should not refer to myself as autistic, then I should call myself a flute player rather than flutist, a person with femininity rather than female, someone of Asian heritage rather than Japanese-American, and be ashamed of all identifying and defining factors that make me who I am. This is just my POV.

    1. exactly! If you have autism you are autistic. I agree with you 100% I think people need to start worrying about real issues and stop making such a big deal of the small stuff.

  10. I use people first language most of the time and especially with formal writing. It really grates on me to read "the disabled," for example; it sounds so condescending and as though this were a homogeneous group with no individual differences. Why not say "disabled people?" Or "people with disabilities?"

    And here I am not talking about what people choose to use when speaking of themselves or their family members. None of us should be correcting others that way, as it is our right to decide who we are and what we want to be called. My son has autism and is unable to speak for himself on this issue, but his father, who is also on the spectrum, just calls himself an Aspie if the need arises to say something.

  11. I guess I always use the person first terminology because I want to emphasize my child's pricelessness as a human being with feelings over manifestations of his neurology. But that's just because we live in a world where people have a tendency to devalue life in general and see a condition instead of a person. But it doesn't offend me when someone just says autistic. It's so much less work! It's an interesting topic. I can't wait to find out what my sweet boy prefers, if he cares at all.