New research into how people describe autism published


Original post from The National Autistic Society

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Two autistic adults sit next to each other on a sofa facing the camera, in conversation with one another

An unprecedented piece of research into the language used by autism communities to describe autism was released today.

The research by The National Autistic Society (NAS), the Royal College of GPs and the UCL Institute of Education looked at the preferences of people on the autism spectrum, their families, friends and professionals.

The findings confirmed that there is no single term that everyone prefers. However, they suggest a shift towards more positive and assertive language, particularly among autistic communities where autism is seen as integral to the person.

Survey responses from 3,470 people were analysed, including 502 autistic adults, 2,207 parents of children and adults on the autism spectrum, 1,109 professionals, and 380 extended family members and friends.

The research found that all groups like the terms ‘on the autism spectrum’ and ‘Asperger syndrome’. Autistic adults like the identity-first terms ‘autistic’ and ‘Aspie’, whereas families didn’t like ‘Aspie’. Professionals also like the term ‘autism spectrum disorder (ASD)’.

Some terms were strongly disliked or no longer used, particularly ‘low functioning’, ‘Kanner’s autism’ and ‘classic autism’.

The language we use is important because it embodies and can therefore help change attitudes towards autism. To reflect the findings of this research, the NAS will gradually increase the use of the term ‘autistic’ – particularly when talking about and to adults in that group. We will also use ‘on the autism spectrum’ as the default way of describing people on the autism spectrum.

The research shows that language preferences are evolving, and we will continue to research and test how different groups prefer to speak about autism.

  • Read the abstract or full research paper ‘Which terms should be used to describe autism? Perspectives from the UK autism community’ in Autism: The International Journal of Research and Practice.
  • Listen to a podcast of NAS Director of the Centre for Autism Carol Povey and Researcher Lorcan Kenny explaining the research.
  • Want to share your thoughts? Find us on Facebook orTwitter using the hashtag #describeautism.
  • Join our mailing lists to stay informed about our work, future research, events and other activity.  ……..

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