Empower Autism

Talking about Autism

Early views on autism were defined by a medical model of disability, often focussing on ‘fixing’ autism. This perspective separated the person from their autistic traits, describing autism in symptoms and impairments. A range of negative stereotypes accompanied this view, albeit unintentionally.

Over the past 30 years, movements in neurodiversity and self-advocacy challenged this perspective and begun embracing autism as a natural variation on the spectrum of human diversity1.

Symptoms became unique characteristics. Autism became part of one’s identity.

We recommend reading Harvard’s ‘What is Neurodiversity’ publication for more background regarding the neurodiversity movement.

One of the major changes was a move from person-first to identity-first language, reflecting the adoption of autism into one’s identity (e.g., I am an autistic person) versus person-first language (e.g., I am a person living with autism) which separated autism from the individual.

We have provided a brief overview of how language has changed with several examples:


While there is a preferred language style within the autistic community, we come from the perspective it is okay to not be perfect. How you refer to someone ultimately depends on the preferences of the individual and open communication.

If you are ever unsure of a certain word that is related to autism, we have also provided you with a Glossary of Common Autistic Terms in your downloadable resource, that can explain commonly used concepts and phrases.

Key Points

  • No-one expects you to be perfect, but taking the time to listen and having a willingness to understand is key!


Shopping Cart