4 comments on “Call me an adult with autism again, I dare you

  1. I have heard this “person first” language myself, and thought it sounded contrived and awkward. I worked with a very nice woman who used to say that her teenaged son, who spent most of the week in a residential school and had very little speech, “had autism.” I suppose she was trying to make the point that “there’s a thinking person in there even if it doesn’t look as if he understands anything,” but as you point out, the autism is part of the core of the person. She did say of him that she knew he understood more than one might think.

    • Aye, that is a part of the language that I have never tried to explain here before (although I might try it sometime). It sounds contrived and awkward. When I say to people “I am autistic”, it comes out of my mouth so smoothly and easily that it can even be compared to sex in the right circumstances. But I feel a great need to ask the people who think “person first” is acceptable: how does referring to the defining characteristic of a person as if it is something separate to them accomplish pointing out to anybody that “there is a thinking / eating / breathing / drinking / shitting / fukking person in there?”. And the only answer that can be reconciled with the facts is: it does not.

      • Yeah, I think in this particular case the mother just felt as if she had to make some point about her son’s comprehension being greater than his ability to communicate it, but that could have been done by saying “My son is autistic and nonverbal but he understands a lot more than people think he does.”
        I don’t presume to judge this woman, who is one of the kindest people I’ve ever met. I just disliked the sound of “My son has autism.”

        • This is definitely something I am going to have to write at more length about in future. But what she was trying to communicate to the audience was a very valid point. That is why in one of my recent posts about Lance Henriksen (go read it if you have not), I talk about how he portrays his character asking the other individual if they understand, and doing so in a very professional and respectful manner. That is an example of the right way.

          If you understand how “I have diabetes” and “I have cancer” sound when I hear them, you understand how “my son has autism” sounds to me. It is not a sound I want to hear, not with any frequency.

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