« Sweetening the Bailout | Main | President Signs Disability Diagnosis Bill »

How do Autistic People See Themselves?


As you can tell from the title of this post, I've temporarily put aside my habit of using "people-first" language. Not only is that our newspaper's style, it's also considered to be more respectful by disability advocacy organizations, like the Special Olympics.

However, in the case of autism, I've read in several places that "autistic" is a preferred term, as can be seen in the name of the Autistic Self Advovacy Network. Autism is an integral part of who they are, these particular advocates say, and the term "autistic" reflects that.

It's particular apt for me to use the term in this post, which is sharing a tantalizing snippet of a new paper that asks how autistic people see themselves.

The most striking observations were that all of them pointed out that unusual perceptions and information processing, as well as impairments in emotional regulation, were the core symptoms of autism, whereas the current classifications do not mention them.

And here is what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has provided as the "official" definition of autism.

This is only a small study, but it suggests that there's much more to be learned from asking people with all sorts of disabilities what they think of themselves, instead of assuming that people without disabilities (or as some disability advocates would say, the "neurotypical") have all the answers.


Autism is a spectrum disorder. It's difficult to ask non-verbals how they feel about themselves. The "official" criteria is based on objective observation--a lost art in this increasingly pseudoscientific society. Those of us who are teachers and parents of children on the spectrum, (I'm both, and live with ASD 24/7), do not have time to either politicize or sentimentalize this neurological disorder.

A couple months ago I came across the writings of Jim Sinclair, autistic adult who is an advocate for autistic people. In one of his essays I read he explained why he and others prefer autistic instead of a person with autism. As he explained it do we say a person with right handedness? I hadn't thought about it that way and ever since I say that my son is autistic instead of has autism.

Comments are now closed for this post.

Follow This Blog


Most Viewed on Education Week



Recent Comments