Why we use Identity First Language

What do we mean by Identity First Language?

For some years now, person first language has been taught as the ‘correct’ and respectful way to refer to people who are disabled. Thus, ‘people with disabilities’ rather than ‘disabled people’. This is often the way professionals are trained. However, some disabled communities now reject this terminology and prefer identity first language, including the autistic community.

So instead of saying ‘person with autism’ we say ‘autistic person’.

Why is identity first language now preferred?

There are many reasons for this.

Firstly, there is nothing to be ashamed of in being autistic. It’s not a disease, or something that can be ‘treated’ or ‘cured’. It is simply a different neurotype to the majority, which allows autistic people to see and experience the world in a different way.

It’s not a handbag you can pick up and put down. You can’t extract it from someone’s brain. If you’re autistic, you’ve been autistic from the moment you were born, and all your experiences have been viewed through an autistic lens. It isn’t your whole identity, for you are likely to have lots of intersectional identities (white/black, old/young, feminist etc), but it’s certainly a large part of your identity and multiple research studies have shown the relief of getting a diagnosis, especially when older.

At AGN we want to nurture positive autistic identities so nobody needs to grow up thinking they’re broken.