The practical guide, which was co-authored by an autistic academic and has been peer-reviewed, was released on Friday in the US-based journal Trends in Neurosciences.
Source: SBS News
Researcher and co-author of the paper, Dr Ruth Monk, who is autistic and is part of the Autism New Zealand Community Advisory Group, said the more researchers engage with the autistic community, the more preferred terminology will be used.
Language can be disempowering, dehumanising and degrading, Dr Monk said, and it’s hoped the use of more inclusive terminology will better describe the condition and help improve understanding of it.
What is autism?
Emma Gallagher is autistic and lives in Sydney. She is a believer in the philosophy “nothing about us without us”.
Emma Gallagher thinks discussing language around autism is useful. Source: Supplied / Emma Gallagher
The motto – which one of the authors involved in the academic paper has also quoted – means involving autistic people in decisions related to their needs and views autism as an integral part of a person’s identity.
“It can feel like to the community that autism has become a bit of a dirty word and people try to avoid saying it, so we like to take back ownership and ensure that the word autism is in that phrase on the autism spectrum because it is an important part of who we are,” she said.
Autistic person or person with autism?
Ms Gallagher said young autistic people can form negative self-identities when certain language is used.
Autism does not need to be ‘cured’
“While this paper focused on the language in autism research, we all felt that it was important that we emphasised that using the term ‘specific supports or services’ instead of ‘treatments’ was about more than just shifting our language use,” they said.
Professor Whitehouse said the terminology needs to catch up with the wider understanding about autism so it reflects what scientists know now.
Andrew Whitehouse says society’s understanding of autism has changed. Source: Supplied
“So to talk about autism in more disease-like terms, which is the more historical way we talked about it, has significant effects not just on individuals who have autism, but also in actually how we perceive autism within our community,” he said.
“Changing our language from language such as symptoms or cure to language such as behaviours or how we can support people, not just empowers those individuals but changes perceptions of the whole community,” he said.
He has encouraged organisations, individuals and families to download the team’s autism guide to proactively implement the relevant language.
Australia’s autism approach
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