Language, and how we use it, is extremely important. We want to talk about autism in a way that is respectful, positive and acceptable to the autism community, however there is not one agreed way to do this.
Some people like the term “autistic person”, some prefer “person with autism” and others use “on the autism (or autistic) spectrum”. This can vary depending on who you are talking to: autistic people, their family and friends and professionals may all use different language, and this can also vary depending on location and culture. We therefore have to recognise that whichever terms we use will be acceptable for some but not others.
Research on Language About Autism
In 2015, a UK research study asked which words people use to describe autism and found that “autistic” was endorsed by a large percentage of autistic adults, their family and friends. Since this is the best evidence available about the preferences of the autism community, we have chosen to use “autistic person” throughout our website and communications.
We realise that this research included only about 500 autistic people in its 4622 participants, all of whom were in the UK. We hope that future research will consult more autistic people and greater diversity, for example including those in other countries. We will adapt our language in line with future findings.
We will keep listening: we will soon be adding an anonymous survey to this page, so you can tell us what you think.