Used properly and with careful thought, can be one of the most powerful tools a person has.
But words themselves should never distract from the point, subject or discussion at hand. Unfortunately, that is exactly what's happening in the Autism community.
It's a subject that is getting a lot of internet time these days, so here are my 2 cents on the Person First Language controversy.
I'll start by telling you flat out that I think it's ridiculous that this is even an issue. For those unfamiliar with the subject, I'm talking about referring someone as autistic vs having autism or with autism, and while it is not ridiculous for people to have their own feelings and opinions on the matter, I can't even begin to understand why it has become an argument.
And sadly, like every other subject in this community, it has. To the point where people will go out of their way to attack "correct" others via comments on blogs/posts or even in person.
The school of thought behind the person first campaign, is that if you refer to someone as "autistic", you are then defining that person by their disorder - and they don't feel this is right. They feel if you instead refer to a person as "having autism", you separate the person from the disorder.
I have no problem understanding why this is a preference for some people and if you and I are talking, and you tell me that's your preference, then I will respect your wishes/opinion. Everyone is entitled to their feelings especially when it comes to their children, or in the case of higher functioning individuals, themselves. However, I would ask the same of anyone else - if you hear or see me refer to my son as "autistic", I would hope that you wouldn't presume to correct me. He's my son, if I'm comfortable with how I refer to him and his disability, then there shouldn't be any argument.
Personally, it doesn't really matter to me. I refer to Toad as "autistic" because that's just what I'm comfortable with. To me, he cannot be separated from his disorder. He is so severely affected, it truly does define who he is - if autism weren't a part of his life, he would not be the same person. He just wouldn't. In both good and bad ways, he would be different, he would not be my Toadie. He'd be Josh. And I'm sure he'd be a cool kid like his big bro, but, he would not be the little person I know right now. He is who he is because he's autistic.
But if someone else wants to refer to him as having autism, or as a child with autism, I'm not going to be bothered by that and I'm certainly not going to suggest that's wrong (it's not) by correcting them. He DOES have autism, so why would this be an argument?
Well, apparently it is. And THAT, is what I find ridiculous.
We have to fight over semantics now because we're not already fighting enough over etiology, treatment modalities/therapies, and recovery vs neurodiversity? FANTASTIC. Because fighting about all these things is very helpful and a really productive outlet for our collective energy.
I said it in an earlier post and I'll say it again here - I don't believe there is any other community of people brought together by a disease/disorder/disability that feels the need to fight within their ranks as much as this one does and it's sad.
Why do we do this? Why is there this seemingly unending need to be fighting over, well, everything??? Our kids have so much more to deal with and long, difficult roads to travel, I think that whether or not I refer to Toadie as autistic or as having autism, just. doesn't. matter. Doesn't matter to me, and I know it doesn't matter to Toad - I mean, come on, I call him TOAD! - so it simply shouldn't be a big deal to anyone else.
There is no need to force our own personal preferences on others.
In the end, it's still there. No matter how you refer to it, how you understand it, how you define it, how you see it, or talk about it. Whether Toadie is autistic, is a child with autism, eats autism for breakfast, is the master of his autistic domain, lives in the house that autism built, or is an autismobot from the planet WTF -
it's still autism.
Let's try to remember that.