What is inclusive language?

     by Inovar Autismo

The use of language can be complex, since it is subjective, dynamic and constantly evolving. Inclusive language is one that focuses on the person as an individual, rather than focusing on the difficulties/disabilities the person may have. When it comes to the language and expressions to be addressed, it is important to respect, listen to and learn from the autistic community.

When you’re not sure how to identify or address someone on the autism spectrum, just ask what the person’s preference is. Although we can not generalize, we leave you some tips:

  • Some people prefer to use language that puts the person first (person on the autism spectrum) while others feel that autism is an undeniable and integral part of who they are. In the latter case, autism is accepted as being totally intertwined with the person’s identity and not as something that can be separated (autistic person).
  • It is also considered the need to extinguish some labels such as “high functioning” and “low functioning”. The idea of low or high functioning can minimize support needs or make it difficult to access support. Labeling a person as “barely functional” implies that they are somehow “inferior” and puts the emphasis only on what they cannot do. Labeling a high-functioning person can generate the expectation that this person faces few challenges and therefore does not need support. Another term that fell into disuse was “Asperger’s” since all current diagnoses are seen as part of the autism spectrum.
  • There are some words that refer to autistic people, as well as other individuals, that are offensive and unacceptable (incapable, disturbed…). We should also avoid any kind of language that assumes that an individual with a disability is having a negative experience (victim of, bearer, suffers from…). For people with disabilities, an environment or circumstance can constitute a barrier or limitation, so disability/difficulty refers to the interaction with these same barriers, which hinder the person’s progress.

Other useful questions on Family Island