Sunday 14 July 2019

Resource: key articles on identity-first language

I've been meaning to write this for a while. Following a conversation just now (in a cat group on Facebook, of all places!) I thought it was about time I pulled together a comprehensive list of articles by autistic people about why identity-first language is overwhelmingly favoured by us (and person-first overwhelmingly - and often vehemently - rejected).

DO NOT try to minimise or trivialise this subject. DO NOT say, "There are more important things to discuss", or "This isn't important in the grand scheme of things", or anything like that. It may not matter much to you which language is used, but for many autistic people, it really does matter because of how language works and because of the impact of language. At some point I'll be writing something about the linguistic effect and significance of PFL and IFL (and differences between the two), but that hasn't come into even planning existence yet, so keep an eye out. When I do, I will update this list.

I am aiming to make this as thorough as possible, so it is quite likely that as I come across more articles, research, etc on this subject, I will be updating this list. If there are any you readers know of that I have not included, please do let me know and send them my way!

Note: if the article is from The Mighty, don't link it directly and instead try to find it on an alternative website; if you have to, use DoNotLink. The Mighty partners with Autism $peaks.



Person-first language (PFL): puts the person before the condition, separates the two.

Examples: "has autism", "a person with autism", a person living with autism" (I wrote a scathing comment on THAT one on this blog's Facebook page a few weeks ago, which you can read here:, "a person experiencing autism"), "someone touched by autism". I have fibromyalgia and ME/CFS.

Identity-first language (IFL): incorporates the condition as an inextricable part of the person's identity.

Examples: "is autistic", "is Deaf".


Articles and content on IFL

Listed alphabetically for ease. Mostly from autistic people, but also a few parents who listen to the autistic community and defer to our preferences.

Amy Sequenzia
Person First Language and Ableism
The Gymnastics of Person First Language

Actually, I Do Let Autism Define Me: Identity-First Language

Autistic and Cheerful
Autism terminology: Identity or person first language
Actually, autism DOES define me

Autistic Zebra
No, I Will Not Call You a "Person with Autism"
Identity First Language 

Beth Wilson
Identity First Language

Cassie Crosman
Why the autistic community prefers identity first language

Chloe Farahar
A rose by any other name would smell…of stigma (or, the psychologically important difference between being a “person with autism” or an Autistic person)

Dawn-Joy Leong
Identity First

Diary of a Mom (*NT parent of an autistic child)
Person First: An Evolution in Thinking (at TPGA)
I do not have neurotypicalism: where person-first language fails
Neurology as identity, not accessory

Emily Ladau
Why Person-First Language doesn't always put the person first

Erin Bulluss and Abby Sesterka
Talking About Autism

Gordon Darroch (Autistic Dad)
On Language

Identity-First Autistic
A Brief History of Identity-First Language

Illusion of Competence
Disability first: autism is not an accessory

Jean Winegardner
'Autistic' or 'Person With Autism'? (at TPGA)

Jeff Gitchel (Turtlemoon)
Autism First (Again)

Jim Sinclair
Why I dislike "person first" language

Julia Bascom
Dear "Autism Parents"

Kassiane A (Radical Neurodivergence Speaking)
I don't have autism. I am autistic.
Remember autistic & person aren't mutually exclusive! Language, again.
Classic Neurodivergence: The Cancer Comparison. AGAIN.

Katherine Last (Autistic on Wheels; me)
30 Days of Autism Acceptance: day 15

Kaylene George (Autistic Mama)
3 Simple Reasons to Use Identity Language For Autistics
Yes I Will Say That My Son is Autistic, and Other Unpopular Autism Opinions

Kieran Rose (The Autistic Advocate)
An Autistic Identity (*VERY long; for specifics, scroll down to the heading titled "How we talk is how we think" in particular)

Lorcan Kenny, Caroline Hattersley et al (*researchers; neurology unknown)
Which terms should be used to describe autism? Perspectives from the UK autism community (*abstract/summary only unless you have institutional or paid access)

Lydia XZ Brown (Autistic Hoya)
The Significance of Semantics: Person-First Language: Why It Matters
Identity and Hypocrisy: A Second Argument Against Person-First Language
"People First - Create an Environment of Respect"
My Dog Isn't Named Autism 

Maxfield Sparrow (Unstrange Mind)
Labels are Valuable Tools

Michelle Swan (Hello Michelle Swan)
The language of identity, or "I am not an autism parent"
Why do you say "autistic" instead of "person with autism"?
Autism does define me

Monique Botha, Jacqueline Hanlon, Gemma Louise Williams
Does Language Matter? Identity-First Versus Person-First Language Use in Autism Research: A Response to Vivanti

Morton Ann Gernsbacher
The use of person-first language in scholarly writing may accentuate stigma

Musings of an Aspie
The Logical Fallacy of Person First Language

Nathan McConnell

Patrick Dwyer (Autistic Scholar)
Identity-First Language

Phillip Ferrigon
Person-First Language vs. Identity-First Language: An examination of the gains and drawbacks of Disability Language in society

Pia Bradshaw et al
Autistic or with autism: Why the way general practitioners view and talk about autism matters

Reaca Pearl (*NT parent and wife of autistics)
5 Reasons Why I Use Identity-First Language For My Autistic Daughter

Robin Eames
Identity first language: a note on language 

Ryan Boren
Identity First

Speaking of Autism
How Person-First Language can be Dehumanizing 

Wibbly Wobbly, Neuro-UNlogical Stuff
Person First vs. Identity First Language

Yenn Purkis
"It's my 'me'!" Identity, language and autism
Why I say "I am Autistic"

Yo Samdy Sam
Person with autism or autistic person?  My problem with “person-first language” for autism



Identity First Autistic

Jonathan Raiseborough


Articles on IFL not specific to autism:

American Psychological Association
APA Style and Grammar Guidelines: Disability

Brittany Wong
It's Perfectly OK To Call A Disabled Person 'Disabled', And Here's Why

Cara Liebowitz
I Am Disabled: On Identity-First Versus People-First Language

CL Lynch
Confused about person-first language?

People With Disability Australia
Identity-first Vs Person-first Language 

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