Tag Archives: identity

The Logical Fallacy of Person First Language

The problems with person first language have been talked about extensively in the autistic community. Many autistic people have expressed a strong, explicit preference for identity first language. And yet, we’re still treated to comments like this one (paraphrased from a comment on another blog):

I work with children with autism and I always say child with autism because they’re children first and autism doesn’t define them. Also, I say typically developing child instead of normal, because normal has negative connotations. Words are important–they reflect how you think.

My first reaction to reading that type of comment is always, “aren’t the typically developing children also children first?”

Or do we just not need to be reminded that they’re children?

If you don’t use normal because it has negative connotations, does the same logic apply to the use of autistic? Or does autistic exist in some special category of word that’s not bad but also unspeakable?

I fail to see why it’s okay to use the identity first descriptor “typically developing child” but not the identity first “autistic child.” Why do we constantly need to be reminded that the autistic kids are people? Is it so easy to forget? I would hope that no matter what label I use to refer to myself it be would obvious that I’m a person.

Anyone who needs to constantly remind themselves that disabled people are people should probably spend more time examining their own beliefs and less time telling other people how to speak about themselves or their children.

Using person first language to refer to autistic children and identity first language to refer to typically developing children isn’t inclusive. It’s othering and unnecessary.

Person first language arose because disabled people were being referred to by demeaning and pejorative terms that had an identity first construction. In some communities, where a preferred identity first term hasn’t arisen, person first is still the preferred construction.

Autistic people, however, have repeatedly expressed a preference for identity first language. For some reason, nonautistic people who think they know better continue to ignore our (loudly and oft-stated) preference. To those people I say, “If you truly believe we’re people, first or otherwise, then listen to what we’re  saying and respect our preference.”

Autistic is not a dirty word. When you act like it is, you aren’t helping  autistic people. You’re contributing the very stigma that you pretend to abhor.


One of my wonderful readers brought this post to the attention of the folks at the Yeah Write Writer’s Challenge it was made an Editor’s Pick. I even got some swag. 🙂

The One Where I Talk About Why Talking is Hard

Today, I’m interrupting the sensory processing series to do something a little different. Okay, a lot different. I had originally planned to make a video blog about sensory diet to run today. What happened instead was a video about why talking is hard.

About 45 minutes into a very frustrating attempt at speaking on video, I gave up. I was ready to walk away from the process when The Scientist asked me to describe what I was feeling. Mostly I was feeling frustrated and angry with myself, but I eventually got past that and managed to talk a little about why I have so much difficulty speaking in this type of situation.

The short answer: The thinking and speaking parts of my brain seem to compete for resources, making it harder for me to organize my thoughts when I speak versus when I write. When I see how much I repeat myself in this video, I cringe, because if I were writing these thoughts out, I would use 1/3 as many words and probably be able to convey twice as much content.

If nothing else, I think you might find the contrast between my written communication and spoken communication interesting.  Continue reading The One Where I Talk About Why Talking is Hard

A Little Something Different

When I started blogging, one of the first topics I wrote about was motherhood.  Before posting, I gave the series to my daughter Jess to read because I wanted her permission before publishing such a detailed account of her childhood. I think she was a little shocked by some of what I wrote,  but she was fine with me publishing it. At the time, we talked about how it would be interesting if she wrote something for the blog from her point of view. She’s all grown up now, a thoughtful, well-adjusted adult with her own take on her childhood.

So, fast forward a year to yesterday morning.  I open my email and find that she’s sent me a post (which is right after this intro).  I was super excited because I’ve been hoping she still wanted to write something but I’m not the kind of mom who nags (much).

Also! Jess says she wasn’t sure what else people might want to know but if anyone has questions for her about being raised by an autistic mom, she’d love to answer them. You can leave comments or questions for her here or on my blog’s Facebook page. Maybe we’ll figure out some fun way to turn this into a mother-daughter conversation.

Okay, enough from me. The rest of this post was written by Jess . . .


As a student in college a few years back, I studied identity, mostly related to race, which led to a lot of writing and talking about myself. Because my father is Korean, a lot of my discussions focused on him. One day, one of my professors asked me, “What’s your mom like?”

“What?” I laughed, surprised at such a vague question.

“What is she like? Does she live with you? You don’t talk about her.”  Continue reading A Little Something Different

Adult ASD: My Evolving Sense of Self

This is the final part in the “I Think I Might Be Autistic” series. 

In addition to the new set of questions that my diagnosis raised, it’s also forced me to think about my identity and how I want to own being autistic. I wrote a bit about identity very early on in this blog. At the time I challenged myself to revisit the subject in the future, after I’d had more time to educate myself and think about the labels I’ve been given.

In the past couple of months, I’ve been using autistic and aspie interchangeably to refer to myself. Not because the DSM-V will be eliminating Asperger’s but because it feels more comfortable. I’ve also been learning about the social model of disability, which says that disability is created by the way society is organized rather than by a person’s differences.

My previous concept of disability had centered on the medical model, which says that people are disabled by their differences, which need to be fixed. Because I was resistant to the idea of being seen as someone who is “less” or “defective” I was resistant to thinking of myself as disabled. The social model of disability has given me a much more positive way of thinking about disability. It looks at a person’s disability and asks what kind of supports that person needs, not what’s wrong with them.

The social model feels like a good fit for Autistic people. I don’t want to be fixed but there are some things that would make my life easier.

Learning to be Autistic

Since I’ve begun blogging, I’ve noticed that I have a constantly evolving sense of self. The more I write and read and talk with other people, the more my understanding of who I am shifts and solidifies.

Little by little, I’m learning what it means to be autistic.

You may notice that I generally use “small a” autistic rather than “capital A” Autistic in my writing. That’s intentional, not an oversight.

Autistic refers to Autistic people as a cultural group. For example, I consider my blog Autistic space–a safe space where Autistic people can gather to share information about how we experience the world. I make an effort to participate in Autistic advocacy events online, like the recent flashblogs. But I don’t feel ready yet to be an advocate in the sense that many other Autistic people are.

The funny thing is, I never thought about being advocate at all until recently. I started blogging as a way to process this huge new self-discovery. Writing has always been my primary way of processing. Big thing to process equals a need to write hundreds of thousands of words in response.

As I got involved in the online blogging community, I slowly began to realize that like it or not, I am an advocate. That’s something that I’ve come take very seriously. Words have consequences. We can lob them like rocks or wield them like a scalpel; we can use them to soothe or incite. Mostly I want to use them to understand and to promote acceptance–self-acceptance and acceptance of Autistic people in general.

I feel like I’m still learning to be autistic. This is personal for me right now. Perhaps this is my way of being an advocate–the constant dissecting and researching and writing and explaining and oversharing.

At some point I’d like to also feel comfortably Autistic, but for now, discovering my “small a” autistic self is an all-consuming process.