Wednesday, April 11, 2018

I'm a Complex Human Being, Dammit! or Identity- vs Person-First Language

Of all the things making up human beings, I'd say a strong identity is the most important. Psychologist Erik Erikson agrees, making that the crucial stage in his theory of psychosocial development. Erikson argues that while adolescents are growing and changing into physical adults, they have to grapple with what social roles they'll take and how they'll define themselves in the world. This leads to someone either developing a strong sense of self or causing major uncertainty of where they fit in, known as "role confusion", that could lead to an "identity crisis" of who they are. All of this is dependent on if that person is encouraged or discouraged by their family, peers, and society at large allowing them to explore different possible identities and accepting their conclusion.

I bring this up because there's a lot of controversy over what people call those on the autism spectrum. Autism is a neurological condition that affects social development, making Erikson's psychosocial development model a lot more complicated over how to recognize autism being a part of one's identity. It could be said autism as a concept is in the adolescent years of "identity vs role confusion", as people argue over whether it should be considered an social identity (aka "identity-first") or something separate from one's overall characteristics (aka "person-first").

Again, I would like to reiterate that my feelings on my use of language concerning autism are my own and I won't dictate what others should do. I'm only using these posts on autism language to express why I feel that way I do and why I do what I do. I'm not gonna tell anyone how they should talk about autism because it's not my place to do so and I don't want people angry with me over it. This is just how I personally feel.

With that in mind, let me explain why I prefer "autistic people" over "people with autism".