Person First vs. Identity First Language (The Autistic Feminist ep. 3)

This week on The Autistic Feminist, we talk about person first language versus identity first language. Before we get into the nitty gritty, we would need a basic understanding of what person first and identity first language is.

Person first language is a type of linguistic prescription that emphasizes on the person, not the disability. It normally means well, but what many people don’t realize that it boils the disability down to just one tiny aspect of that person. Person-first language means well because it’s supposed to represent the shift away from outdated terms such as “handicapped” or the r-word. For instance, the Education for All Handicapped Children Act, which was passed in 1975 to mandate the inclusion of disabled children in public schools, was changed to the Individuals with Disabilities Act in 1990, the same year the ADA was passed. The media tends to predominantly use person-first language, and it started when the ADA tried to help promote the change to person-first language.

Identity first language, on the other hand, says that the disability is part of who you are, and impacts who you are. It shows that you would not be you without the disability. A growing number of disabled people today prefer identity-first language, although there are still many individuals who prefer person-first language.

Which you should and shouldn’t use varies from person to person, and it really just boils down to personal preference, but from what I explained, your safest bet is to use identity first language, at least until the specific person you’re talking to says otherwise.

Using person-first language tends to view disabilities more as a disease or a serious condition that’s in need of treatment, rather than a disability that is ingrained in one’s personality. In a way, it implies a degree of shame or negativity in one’s disability.

The Disability Cultural Center at Syracuse University says “The basic reason behind members of these groups’ dislike for the application of people-first language to themselves is that they consider their disabilities to be inseparable parts of who they are.” They embrace the terms autistic, deaf, blind, or disabled as their personal identity.

The Autistic Self Advocacy Network explains that most autistic advocates prefer identity-first terminology. Autistic blogger and activist Lydia Brown said in a blog post reposted on the ASAN website as a language guide: “In the autism community, many self-advocates and their allies prefer terminology such as ‘Autistic,’ ‘Autistic person,’ or ‘Autistic individual’ because we understand autism as an inherent part of an individual’s identity — the same way one refers to ‘Muslims,’ ‘African-Americans,’ ‘Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/Transgender/Queer,’ ‘Chinese,’ ‘gifted,’ ‘athletic,’ or ‘Jewish.’”

Brown also explains the component of the terminology with this statement: “When we say ‘Autistic person,’ we recognize, affirm, and validate an individual’s identity as an Autistic person. We recognize the value and worth of that individual as an Autistic person — that being Autistic is not a condition absolutely irreconcilable with regarding people as inherently valuable and worth something. We affirm the individual’s potential to grow and mature, to overcome challenges and disability, and to live a meaningful life as an Autistic. Ultimately, we are accepting that the individual is different from non-Autistic people–and that that’s not a tragedy, and we are showing that we are not afraid or ashamed to recognize that difference.”

One two-panel comic created by Over Explaining Autistic explains the difference between the two very well. The first panel is an image of person first language, with a person walking a dog saying “Come on, Autism, time for a walk.” Autism being the dog’s name, implying that they’re a person with Autism. The second panel is an image of a person with the neurodiversity logo on their body, implying that they’re an autistic person. That comic was probably the best explanation of the difference between person first and identity first language I could find. It shows a basic understanding of how person-first language wouldn’t make sense to anyone who prefers identity-first language.

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How Autism is Different in Girls (The Autistic Feminist ep. 2)

This week on The Autistic Feminist, we talk about why autism is different in girls and how it influences them being underdiagnosed.

Everyone knows that every person on the spectrum is different, so why is it that many girls are left undiagnosed or are not diagnosed until they are older?

The misconception that there are no girls on the spectrum can be traced back to the 1940’s when Hans Asperger mentions that there are no girls affected by autism in Autistic Psychopathy in Childhood. Since the studies he made were on boys, there’s a bit of a bias in the diagnoses. The diagnostic criteria involve social and communication difficulties, and repetitive, inflexible behavior patterns. This data was derived almost entirely from studies of boys, and many girls have different symptoms.

Most girls on the spectrum don’t get diagnosed until a later age, and the girls who did get diagnosed at an earlier age tend to have more severe symptoms. Because of this, many people mistake the symptoms for other disorders such as ADHD or anxiety disorder.

A 2013 study has shown how autistic girls develop compared to autistic boys, and it showed that autistic girls tend to be more on-par with neurotypical boys the same age as them as far as social development goes. Neurotypical boys tend to be socially behind than neurotypical girls. Because of this, girls on the spectrum tend to be better at masking their symptoms. They often mimic and imitate their peers in social behavior, and this is why many girls often get the “but you don’t look autistic” when they come out.

Girls who have undiagnosed autism often develop self-esteem issues because they don’t know where their issues are coming from. When many girls get diagnosed late, often when they’re in their 20’s and 30’s, they actually get relieved because many questions are answered.

Boys and girls also play differently from each other. Many studies have shown that autistic girls tend to have less repetitive behaviors than boys do, and also tend to have interests that are more similar to that of other girls than of autistic boys. For girls, it’s not really the interests that are necessarily considered atypical, but rather the intensity of those interests. For example, a girl on the spectrum can be interested in animals or Disney movies but would be more intense than that of neurotypical girls.

This is probably one of the many reasons why the so-called “model” of autism should be eliminated since the gender bias is pretty obvious due to the diagnostic criteria being based on stereotypes.

“The Autistic Feminist”: Coming to WordPress and YouTube June 9th

Hey, guys! It’s Nikki! And did you know that I’m starting a new blog in June? Yes! I am starting a new blog! But I know what y’all are asking yourselves right now.

Nikki, what is this blog? And what will it be about? And why haven’t you done anything with your pathetic life yet?

I can’t answer that last question, but I can answer the former two for you.

This new blog is going to be called The Autistic Feminist, and it will be a fun little blog that will educate y’all about the neurodiversity branch of feminism from an actual autistic and will be published every fourth Friday.

But wait, you may be asking yourself. Will there be any other ways to access this blog other than as a blog?

I’m glad you asked that because The Autistic Feminist will also be a YouTube series!!

Yes, I am planning on making this both a YouTube series and a blog to educate the masses about a subject so near and dear to my heart.

Well, you better prepare yourselves, because the first “Autistic Feminist” blog is going to be published on June 9th!