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Are there preferable terms and rhetorical strategies associated with discussions of the autism spectrum?

In this section, we will be discussing the proper language and verbage associated with the discussions of autism and other associated conditions. The use of “Autism Spectrum Condition” instead of “Autism Spectrum Disorder” is one of the first points to disseminate more about the philosophy and background of neurodiversity. Conditions are value-neutral, not associated with any connotations and serve as a catch-all category for many medical diagnoses. It can be used in reference to the state of a patient or individual (for example, “good condition” or “critical condition”). Disorders serve as medical terminology that are associated with negative consequences that lead to significant impairment, contributing to limitations for life activities. The majority of this guide has been paraphrased to use value-neutral, inclusive language from sources that have a medical focus.


Is it better to use identity-first or person-first language?

Another common topic associated with autism under the umbrella of rhetoric is whether individuals should be utilizing identity-first or people-first language when associated with disability and neurodiversity. This is dependent on the individual or spokesperson of the organization, according to the National Center for Disability and Journalism.  This is important to consider when talking to neurodivergent individuals (this is an example of identity-first language) or people with neurodivergent conditions (this is an example of people-first language). While the neurodiversity framework points its biases towards identity-first language, educators, caregivers, and others should respect an individual’s choice. Throughout this guide, both styles are used interchangeably.


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