It’s Only Words

I’ve read a lot recently around what is deemed as correct terminology when referring to someone with autism. These articles have been from parents and from people with autism, yet I have found them to be conflicting. I have heard a great deal of words bounced around, some I have never encountered until my own son was diagnosed and I have my own opinion about most of them. Who would have thought eh?

Autistic, Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Autie, Aspie, Neurotypical, Autism Mum, Autistic Spectrum Condition (ASC), Special Needs, Additional Needs, High-functioning, Low -functioning.

Should you refer to a person with autism as ‘someone with autism’ or ‘autistic’? Could one or the other cause offence? Would the offence be caused to the parent or the individual?

How are you supposed to know what is the right terminology to use when a whole community cannot agree amongst themselves? A minefield to say the least!

When Joseph was first diagnosed, I insisted on saying he had Autistic Spectrum Disorder as my perception was that someone with autism had more severe difficulties than someone with ASD; I didn’t want my child to be the person with autism.

And once I had come to terms with this diagnosis, I preferred to say he had autism rather than that he was autistic. I believed that his label didn’t encompass everything who he was. He was a boy with a little added extra, the autism.

I disliked the title of Disorder. Although our life is a complex mix of disorder and order, he didn’t have a disorder; I preferred that he had a condition. Autistic Spectrum Condition…Amazing Spectrum Coat….impressed?

I’m a Mum. And if you have to go a little further, then I’m a mum of a boy with autism not an autism mum. Similar to when I state, I have a son and if the need arises I say he has autism; he is not my autistic son.

Is a person who is high-functioning able to pretty much do everything that someone without autism can? Are the signs more subtle? Are we then back to asking questions such as ‘how far on the spectrum is your child?’ In my eyes this equates to me asking ‘how ugly is your child?’

I don’t like autie. Just because.

I cringe when people make the comparison to someone ‘normal’. Who defines what is normal? And remember, I carried this child in the same way other mothers carry their children and I have the same bond and love that they have. Please don’t say my child is not normal, it offends me.

So after all of that, do you now know how to refer to all people with autism? Probably not, so my advice is this: ask the individual or the parent, what is their preference, if in fact they have one. We all have different likes and dislikes, you can’t please everyone and the easiest way to deal with it is to ask the question. Most people will be flattered you have taken the time to enquire and show interest. Needless to say, this is only what my thoughts are this week and as we move through our journey my preferences may change again!

Two thoughts I stumbled across, both powerful in their own right:

Different, not less

If you have met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism

And if it’s still as clear as mud, you could always refer to my son as this:



..and a disclaimer…it’s only my opinion. If you’ve met one autism mum, you’ve met one mum who may just happen to be a parent of someone with autism 😉


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