Autistic – Noun or Adjective? Which is offensive?

So I wrote my last post and titled it: “AutCraft – The not so little Minecraft project for autistics and their families” and went about my day. Until this happened:


autistic-nounorajdective2Now, I’m sure you’ve all heard the “person first language” thing, where some people insist that you use “person with autism” rather than “autistic.” I’ve written about it before in articles such as The last word on “person first language” where I explain why I use the terminology that I use.

This however, is entirely new to me. Now, in this seemingly middle ground area, it’s ok to use as an adjective but not as a noun. The woman that tweeted above, uses “mom to autistic son” in her bio and yet uses “ouch” and “awful” in her tweets to me because I referred to people as “autistics” in my post title.

I am an understanding person though so I’m not going to dismiss hers or anyone else’s concerns. I do however feel that we should work this out so that we have a better mutual understanding of each other.

Now, in conversations, I’ve referred to myself as a Canadian, a baldy, a male, a genius, an idiot, an autistic, an introvert, a bore, a supporter, a nerd and a whole bunch of other things. These can all be used as adjectives.

What I need now is a list of terms that you use when referring to yourself.

Then I’ll pick and choose the ones that I think should offend me and we can then come to some sort of agreement where you can no longer refer to yourself that way and I can no longer refer to myself that way and we can finally go back to being happy people.

Because the last thing I’d ever want is to offend YOU by referring to ME.



About Stuart Duncan

My name is Stuart Duncan, creator of My oldest son (Cameron) has Autism while my younger son (Tyler) does not. I am a work from home web developer with a background in radio. I do my very best to stay educated and do what ever is necessary to ensure my children have the tools they need to thrive. I share my stories and experiences in an effort to further grow and strengthen the online Autism community and to promote Autism Understanding and Acceptance.

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7 Responses to Autistic – Noun or Adjective? Which is offensive?

  1. Tabitha July 12, 2013 at 10:02 am #

    I am a Canadian, a redhead, a female, a critic and a survivor. I am mother to aroud Aspie. I don’t really see a difference between calling yourself an autistic, a person with autism or an autistic person (or an Aspie for that matter.) These debates about semantics largely ignore context.

  2. Tabitha July 12, 2013 at 10:03 am #

    whoops – a proud aspie*

  3. Tricia Ballad July 12, 2013 at 10:53 am #

    As a mother of autistic kids and as a writer, “person with autism” makes me cringe. Mostly because it’s such a clunky, awkward phrase. It doesn’t actually add any meaning to what you’re saying, it just runs circles around another (simpler) phrase. Perhaps if people spent their time and energy actually doing something useful instead of freaking out over usage, the lives of autistic kids and adults might be improved. But I suppose it’s easier to sit around discussing language than actually getting in the trenches.

    • @AutismMommy_ca July 12, 2013 at 1:08 pm #

      Totally agree with you! This “clunky, awkward phrase” was adopted with good intensions but it’s time to let it go.

  4. Christoffer July 12, 2013 at 12:59 pm #

    I use autistic both as a noun and as an adjective, because autism is my identity. If someone say that I’m a person with autism/person having autism that is what is awful because it is wrong and make the autism sounds like a negative thing that I have; something to cure, rather than what I am.

    It is my experience that person first language have been applied much by people who is physically different; where other may see their differences through use of wheelchair or loss of a hand etc. To them, the difference is something which they wish to hide to signal that they are as able as others and to them the word disabled is awful. But to me, having a difference which is hidden, I use enough energy on trying to make it visible so that I can be met for who I am, and so my quest in life is the opposite of those with a physical difference, and the person first language does not work at all for me.

  5. Artsieaspie July 20, 2013 at 4:31 am #

    I don’t consider either form – noun or verb – offensive. I personally call myself an autistic person, but other people can call themselves whatever they like. And that’s the key to the issue – it’s up to every individual to choose how they refer to themselves, and lecturing them about what they choose to call themselves is even more rude than putting your own label on them in the first place.

  6. Flannery July 20, 2013 at 11:14 am #

    You make me laugh.

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