The medicalized and pathologizing language used to describe autism has become increasingly offensive, with terms like "abnormal", "defect" or "disorder" being thrown around as if they were medical facts. It is essential for us to change this narrative and instead focus on understanding, acceptance, and respect for autistic people. It also forces us to recognize that using offensive language when discussing or talking about disability or autism can be deeply hurtful. Fortunately, alternative language has been developed that celebrates the complexity of autism rather than attempting to medicalize it with offensive language. Language has power, so let's use words which empower those who are different! We need to create a culture of understanding that gives each individual the platform to reach their fullest potential.
Autism is now viewed as part of the neurodiversity spectrum, rather than as a problem that has to be resolved.,• However, much of the research literature still uses medicalized and pathologizing language when discussing autism.
• In order to make this less harmful for the autistic community, three researchers – Ruth Monk from the University of Auckland in New Zealand; Andrew Whitehouse from Telethon Kids Institute and The University of Western Australia; and Hannah Waddington from Victoria University Wellington – have published a data-driven guide on how scientists should talk about autism in their work.
• The authors provide alternatives to potentially offensive language such as replacing “Autism Spectrum Disorder” with “autism” and “person with autism” with “autistic person”.
• They also advocate for more participatory approaches to conducting research that reduce power imbalances between researchers and autistic community members by involving them throughout the process.
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