Person first vs identity first language

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maisym00
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Joined: Mon Jun 03, 2019 1:17 pm

Person first vs identity first language

Post by maisym00 »

I wanted to open a discussion on people's thoughts on this.

I'm applying for jobs working with autistic people. From my experience, most of the people I work with prefer to be referred to as an autistic person, rather than a person with autism (i.e. identify first).They find person first language patronising, as if it is insulting to say 'autistic person.' It's interesting, because studies have looked at this issue and found that clinicians prefer to say 'person with autism' but, actually, 'autistic person' is preferred by those with autism... (study here if anyone wants to have a look https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10 ... 1315588200)

Personally, I would prefer to listen to the voiced perspectives of the community in question, and use the term autistic people in my applications. However, I am aware that in the clinical community, person first language is widely used and identity first language is frowned upon, so I wouldn't want to jeopardise my application by using identity first language. However, it feels a bit jarring to me not listening to the desires of the community in question?

Has anyone else had similar experiences? Do you use identity or person first language for applications?
hawke
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Re: Person first vs identity first language

Post by hawke »

I am doing my thesis on autism and my lab group routinely uses 'autistic people'. I would assume clinicians working in the field would also know the ins and outs of the debate, although I agree that a non-specialist clinician in a more general field might not.
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miriam
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Re: Person first vs identity first language

Post by miriam »

Of course it would feel more natural to say "I'm autistic" than "I'm a person with autism" just the same as I'd say "I'm asthmatic" or "I have asthma" rather than "I'm a person with asthma", but it doesn't mean the same as wanting to be identified by your diagnosis (or minority status) by others. If someone wants to identify themselves as autistic or the common factor between themselves and a group they belong to as "we are autistic", that's their decision. If you (a person who presumably does not have autism) lump them together with every other person with the same diagnosis as "autistics" like some studies do with "schizophrenics" or to say you work "in an autism service", that's your decision, and probably less empowering*. Saying "autistic people" or "services for autistic people" is still recognising personhood, even if the language isn't "person first". But I would still make a case for person-first language in all other cases, and in most cases in relation to people with autism - unless an individual has asked you to use particular language about them, which I would always try to respect.

I think there is probably more debate around language in relation to people with autism because of the very nature of the differences inherent in that neurological set-up, and the fact many people with autism are quite plain-spoken and factual and prefer others to be, and don't have the same degree of focus as neurotypicals on the social judgements others make about them, or the slights that can be inherent in certain labels. I don't like to use labels in ways I've heard used as an insult. However, I'm glad if groups of people can reclaim language used in that way. Plus I've always wished the world was kinder and more honest, rather than thinking of ASD traits like being less cynical about other people's malign intentions as a deficit.

*If you struggle to see the difference, think of an individual who feels very empowered by identifying as a black woman, versus the idea of a white person making a statement about creating services for "blacks" or "black people" (or immigrants or any label within the LGBTQ+ spectrum) as if they are a single homogenous group and you might start to see the difference.
Miriam

See my blog at http://clinpsyeye.wordpress.com
maisym00
Posts: 21
Joined: Mon Jun 03, 2019 1:17 pm

Re: Person first vs identity first language

Post by maisym00 »

Thanks for these responses I think identity first language feels very counterintuitive to me, but if that's what the community are telling me they prefer then I really ought to respect that! When it comes to application forms though, I think if in doubt I will lead with person first language. Interesting point about the difference between someone within the community using person first and how that is different to myself using person first, and considering the differences between people with ASD versus other communities. Thanks :)
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