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Autistic People vs People with Autism



One ongoing contention in the world of autism is the terms "people with autism" vs "autistic people". People before autism advocates saying they are emphasizing the humanity of autism by putting people first and that autism is secondary. These advocates often see autism as a disease that can potentially be cured. The advocates of "autistic people", many of who themselves are autistic people that can advocate for themselves, see placing autism after people as trying to hide autism. They do not see the need to be cured.

One problem with the idea that autism can be cured is it implies that autism is a disease. This gives the conception that autism is contagious and can be transmitted between people. I have met people that believe this.

Mostly if the “people first” advocates were not so adamant about “people with autism” and also allowed “autistic people”, either way would not be as contentious. It is the underlying reasons for “people before autism” advocates that really rub autistic people the wrong way. Even if a “cure” was found, many autistic people that are capable of making the decisions say they would not be interested in “cured”. They want to be who they are and autism is part of their identity.

Blind people are not called people with blindness. Deaf people are not called people with deafness. The debate also goes on with "disabled people" and "people with disabilities". ‘Disability is something imposed on top of our impairments by the way we are unnecessarily isolated and excluded from full participation in society.’ (UPIAS, 1976:14). So disabilities are imposed by society by not being fully inclusive of people's impairment is flipping of where the disability is coming from. While solving each individual's disability can be a worthwhile goal, solving society's disability of inclusiveness of everybody needs to be worked on also.

As a father of an autistic child, I find neither term changes my child's or my reality in living with autism. There is just more important things to spend time and energy on than this word order debate. I use "autistic" because it is shorter.

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