Sunday, August 3, 2014

Remember autistic & person aren't mutually exclusive! Language, again.

This post is set off by a final straw but there have been a lot of straws since the last time I wrote about person first language. Lots and lots and lots of straws.

Not a day goes by that something awful about people like me, autistic people, doesn't hit the social media scene.

Not a day goes by that Autistic people and people who respect us don't comment on it, respond to it in posts, et cetera.

And not a day goes by that some parent or professional doesn't read the responses and say "put the person first! Person first language! Person living with autism!" or something of that nature.

If you read an article about horrors being done to Autistics, or where an autistic person poured their soul into writing something difficult for your benefit and all you take home is "I don't like this language", there are 10,000 problems & your attitude is most of them.

Once, I shit thee not, a parent read an article about a murdered autistic person & informed me that person was "living with autism". No they are not. They were murdered while Autistic. How someone can be this cruel and claim it's respectful is utterly beyond me.

Some disabled people prefer person first language, and that's fine. But when I hear able people getting upset about how "disrespectful" identity first language used by the disabled person in question is?

What I hear is "I need a constant reminder that you're a person. The moment I remember that you're disabled I cannot hold your personhood in my head".

This makes that able person a very scary and dangerous human being. This perception is not helped at all by the context of so many of these comments--so many times it's in response to a disabled person or our friends responding to horrors. Or sharing triumphs, but usually horrors because that's what sells newspapers.

You read about horrors and instead of engaging with our real and raw reactions you get all self righteous about the language we use to describe ourselves.

What hubris. And what a complete and utter lack of empathy. Responding that way is so far the opposite of respect there needs to be another word for it.

If you truly want to respect us, stop reminding us that we are people who happen to be living while experiencing traits which we currently diagnose as the syndrome of autism, & start listening to us. Get off your high horse and put your outrage where it belongs--aim it at the folks hellbent on making you forget that we're people.  That's where it belongs.


Unknown said...

What perplexes me about this whole debate is, isn't person-first language a thing in the first place because a bunch of people with disabilities said "refer to us how we want you to, because we said so"? Why doesn't the same logic apply to disabled people saying "refer to us how we want you to, because we said so"?

Neurodivergent K said...

People with intellectual disabilities tend to prefer PFL, yes.

And that's fine! I don't hear people arguing with that (except people who want to call people the r slur but that's another post)

and then parents & professionals, like, latched on & ran with it or something.

BiolArtist said...

It's as though the non-autistics simply think in black and white or have cognitive rigidity or something. They just can't grasp that different groups have different preferences--people with Downs vs. Deaf and Autistics.

Leah Kelley said...

This is perfect! Thank you!

Unknown said...

It can also be (intentionally or not) a way to derail whatever conversation was taking place. It's really frustrating when there's an interesting discussion going on, or a really moving or thought-provoking post, and someone comes along and ignores the actual point to start talking about person-first-ism. Pick your moments, people...

Unknown said...

Thank you for writing this. Yes!

DanYellow said...

In this instance it's not able person, it's person with ableism.

Anonymous said...

I know it's been a while since you posted this but I only read it recently. After reading it, I discussed it with my son and asked him whether he felt he should be called autistic or whether he prefers people-first language. He's 7 but I've always been open with him about his diagnosis - using age-appropriate language to explain why kids his age seem to "speak a different language" (his words) to him. His decision: "Some people are called artistic because they're good at art. I'm good at having autism so I should be called autistic".