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Guidelines to Neuro-affirmative Language

How to talk about autistic ways of being

The language that we choose to use has an impact on how people view and understand neurological differences. Neuro-affirming language supports positive viewpoints and outcomes for autistic people. Using the most affirming language will ensure autistic people are respected, validated and in touch with their authentic selves without shame.

A study by Chris Bonello in 2022

A study completed by Chris Bonnello in 2022 shows that much of the autistic community share a clear preference for identity-first language. Autism is a crucial part of a person’s identity. Always respect the language that an individual prefers. It’s okay to ask them, and if they aren’t sure you could explore this with them.

Respect individual preferences

It is vital that the individual preferences of people are listened to and considered. Always ask an autistic person what terminology they prefer and use it. If they don’t have a preference, the language in this document should be used as it is what the majority prefer and have deemed to be most respectful. If a person is not sure what they prefer it could be good to explore this with them to show why the autistic community have chosen this particular language and they can make up their own mind.

Challenging the classification of disorder is not the same as denying a disability

  • Autism is considered a disability, and many autistic people need support. However just because someone is autistic, it does not mean they need ‘intervention’. It is not necessary to say someone is disordered and use pathologizing language in order to provide them with the right support.
  • Try not to think in terms of disorder
  • Translate medical language into identity affirming language

Click on the links below to get more information about terms.

Glossary of terms
Clarifying other terms