Autism Acceptance Week: Language & Positive Terminology

Autism Acceptance Week: Language & Positive Terminology

29 March 2022 • Words by Nicole Donne < 1 min

The terms ‘identity-first’ or ‘person-first’ language sets may be familiar – but what does it mean? The main concepts are around definition and identity. Some put forward that using person-first terminology (i.e person with Autism instead of Autistic person) creates space that Autism is only a part of who they are, not the defining word. Some individuals prefer using Autistic Person.


Exploring the meaning behind words also means considering the way they have been used historically. It also gives a chance to look at the semantics that exists with connotation. Problematic terminology has always been a part of the conversation around considering Autism Spectrum. Positive terminology when talking about Autism will ensure moving away from negative perceptions around the topic. Positive remarks during negative conversations can be powerful.


Word choice (such as disorder as opposed to condition, and diff-ability in place of disability) has a large presence in modern discussions around Autism. It can be insightful to explore what these terms mean to you in your life. What have your experiences been around this conversation? 


Examining the connotations of each may lead to individual interpretations that are positive and/negative. There are rich debates on this in medical, community and interpersonal spaces all over the world every day. Joining these conversations, and encouraging open discussion around which terminology is preferred within the Autism community, will create more space for choosing which language best represents an individual’s identity.




Hear from a mother whose son is on the Autism Spectrum about their journey through his diagnosis, here.

  • Nicole Donne