Identity-First Language for Autistic People

Bened Life is a company that values the communities it serves. This means that we are constantly listening to our customers and their communities for ways to better ourselves and grow. This is especially true for the Autistic community that we work with extensively.

First and foremost, we want to acknowledge that the Autistic community is not a monolith. As the phrase goes, “When you have met one Autistic person, you’ve met one Autistic person.” That being said, we want to share a little about the language we use as a company that works with Autistic people. 

Wait – you said Autistic person. I thought it was “has autism”? 

We get comments like this a lot. Let’s talk about the language we use in these instances. The first language barrier we want to tackle is “identity-first” versus “person-first” language. 

Person-first language places the person before the disability or condition.

  • Ex: Roger is a person with autism.
  • Ex: Roger has autism.

Identity-first language leads with the disability or condition. 

  • Ex: Roger is an Autistic person.
  • Ex: Roger is Autistic.

What’s the difference?

The difference is nuance and personal preference. 

Person-first language is often used when individuals want to be distinguished from their disability or condition. It is also a way to remind others that they are a person and worth being treated like a person rather than a burden to society. This mentality aims to ensure the same respect is given to all people, regardless of disability or condition.

Identity-first language is often used when individuals want to distinguish to others that they are a whole person, disability or condition included. Part of their core identity and the way they experience the world is tied to their disability or condition, thus you cannot separate the person from the disability. Identity-first language is most popular amongst Autistics and Deaf and blind people who believe that their identity cannot be washed from their disability. 

At Bened Life, we are continuously working with our neurodiversity and disability specialists to stay on top of language developments. You will see us use identity-first language for autism, which is a deliberate choice we made in conjunction with these specialists. 

Does that mean identity first is better?

Nope! Both are valid ways to identify, and individuals vary in their preferences. 

However, the current consensus in the Autistic community is identity-first language, and we stand in solidarity with the community on this aspect.

Should I capitalize “Autistic”?

When referring to someone’s identity, we capitalize. When referring to a condition, we do not. For example:

  • Rose is Autistic
  • Izzy is an Autistic
  • Casey-Lee is an expert on autism

This type of capitalization is also common in the Deaf community. Both the Deaf and Autistic communities embrace the social model of disability vs. the medical model of disability.

Do you also use “ASD”?

Good catch! You will sometimes see the use of the abbreviation “ASD”, autism spectrum disorder, in our content. This is the medical term for autism as classified in the DSM-5, as well as the name of the medical diagnosis. For medical purposes, you will see Bened Life use “ASD”. 

Ultimately, language used socially will change faster and with more input from the community compared to the language used in science. This is why we use a mix of tools to refer to autism.

Bened Life is committed to empowering Autistic voices through our hiring practices and business operations. To learn more, please visit our About page.


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