Resources supporting preference, but importantly wellbeing properties, of identity-first language: we are Autistic

The use of identity-first language to describe our Autistic selves, or be described by non-autistic people, is not up for debate with non-autistic people. But time and again it is demanded that we Autistic people – not “people with autism spectrum disorder” – provide “evidence” for the use of identity-first over person-first language.

Even more frustratingly – angering even – is that professionals do not expect the same level of “evidence” for the use of person-first language when interacting with Autistic people.

And so, find some resources here to demonstrate both preference for identity-first language, but more importantly the psychologically protective properties of being an Autistic person, not a “person with autism [spectrum disorder]”.


Some people around young Autistic people will say they asked their young person about their preference – to be referred to as an Autistic person, or a “person with autism [spectrum disorder]”, stating that they went with their young person’s preference for person-first language – or even that the young person didn’t care about it.

The above scenario is not an acceptable reason to ignore the politics of a young persons’ life. Absolutely language should not be forced on the minority in question – but that does not preclude you from learning about the importance – the psychological and political importance – of identity-first versus person-first language regarding yourself, your young person, the people in your care, in your class, in your employment.

And there is growing evidence that humanising us via identity-first language and the surrounding, far greater Autistic community and cultural narrative, actually improves psychological wellbeing of Autistic people – a population where the greatest cause of death is suicide. And so, any help our community can get to reduce early deaths and a life of prejudice and discrimination should be deeply and critically considered.

That you were taught that person-first language is what you should use is no longer an acceptable response when told otherwise. As Dr Nick Walker says: “Sentences that start “person-first language is what I was taught to use” should end with “but now I know better & will never use it again”.

Be the change you want to see, importantly, be the change we desperately need. Thank you.

UPDATE: Oct 2023 – An extensive guide to humanising language has been produced by the Community Against Prejudice Towards Autistic People, and Aucademy welcomes its use, feel free to share.

These psychologically protective properties are somewhat demonstrated in Chris Bonnello of Autistic not Weird‘s latest survey with 11,212 respondents (7,491 of whom were Autistic, including non-speaking Autistic people), which demonstrated that those who identified as Autistic were more likely to like being Autistic, compared to those who considered themselves to be “people with autism”:

Chris Bonnello of Autistic not Weird‘s latest 2022 survey with 11,212 respondents (7,491 of whom were Autistic, including non-speaking Autistic people). These two tables show those who use identity-first language were more likely to like being Autistic than those who use person-first language.




Chris Bonnello of Autistic not Weird‘s latest 2022 survey with 11,212 respondents (7,491 of whom were Autistic, including non-speaking Autistic people). A marked increase from the 2018 survey (screenshot below) where 51.62% of Autistic people preferred identity-first language, compared with 76.16% of AUtistic people in 2022.

Screenshot of Autistic not Weird large survey 2018, showing 51.62% of Autistic respondents preferred Autistic person

As much as Aucademy detests autism $peaks, their poll with 16,151 votes backfired on them, as 69% voted for “I am Autistic” over “I have autism”


YouTube video: Chloe Farahar: A rose by any other name would smell…of stigma (or, the psychologically important difference between being a “person with autism” or an Autistic person)

YouTube video: The importance of Autistic language – what’s in a name?

YouTube video on the important difference between the abstract “autism” and tangible Autistic experience.

YouTube video: Chloe Farahar: Why we should be fighting *prejudice* toward Autistic people, not “autism stigma”


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