Person-first language is common among those who work with anyone with any type of disability or diagnosis. It is taught in classes, seminars, and more. But I am NOT a person with autism, I am Autistic. This is called identity-first language and is common among autistics. There may be some who prefer person-first language (she has autism, he is a person with Autism), but I would say a majority prefer Autistic.
Autism is a big part of who I am. It is very different from many of my other diagnoses. For example, if you were to take away my physical health diagnoses, I would still be AJ. The core of who I am would be the same. Experiences and abilities might change, but I’m still me. On the other hand, if you were to remove Autism from me, I wouldn’t be the same person. I would be someone completely different. It isn’t like I’d just be a neurotypical AJ, I’d be someone new and very different person. A not-AJ person.
It is because autism is such a vital part of who I am that I say I am Autistic rather than I have autism. I’m proud of being Autistic, regardless of the public’s perception, the hate I get, and the negative connotations with saying that.
I know other Autistics of varying abilities and we are all working toward better awareness and more importantly acceptance of Autism, especially Autism in adults since most people think of kids when they hear autism. Even after my diagnosis, I didn’t tell many people, I was afraid of the stigma that goes along with the word Autistic. Eventually, I realized that the stigma can never change if others can’t see people who are actually Autistic and if we don’t ever challenge those stigmas.
I tell people now that I’m Autistic. I tell them when I’m having issues with a crowd and start crying and they are worried. I tell people when I’m able to explain genetics in a way that makes sense when no one else has been able to do that. I like to show the awesomeness of being Autistic as well as the struggles.
I AM AUTISTIC and I’m not afraid to say it.