People first versus Autistic First

Here are the options, an autistic man or a man with autism. It has been a while since I looked at people first language and it has changed greatly in the autistic community. I am an advocate for autistic people now. I used to be an advocate for people with autism. What has changed though? The autistic people are growing up and we are able to talk to one another now. An opinion was presented to me that an autistic person is exactly that. A person with autism is also the same thing, but the context changes. Completely disregarding the autism.

I admit this is a 180 turn for me, but hear me out. This opinion comes from a place of identity. How I identify myself and how I want others to identify me. I still do not like autistic being used as a slur, but I now do not mind being called an autistic person. There is now a social construct that has been erected by autistic people. The autistic community does not mind having autism and will fight to preserve their identity as someone with autism. We have turned what used to be a medical diagnosis and turned it into what helps us understand ourselves.

This also stems from the social model versus the medical model and the issue of self-diagnosis. There are a lot of autistic people who are not medically diagnosed due to a lot of different issues. One being economic standing or feelings of distrust in medicine. I do not agree with the distrust of medicine and honestly, I am unsure of this decision that I am making. I thought about it though and I realized that many people who introduced me to people first language were not autistic. I’m not saying people first language is bad, far from it for some medical issues.

Autism has become, to some people on the spectrum, their identity. Who am I to say they cannot be that? I have a medical diagnosis, but the social sciences fascinate me. The construct that we cannot identify as autistic sounds ridiculous to me. Even though at the same time, I feel like people first is the route to go. I’m torn on this issue. Any thoughts?

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