Many people who have been diagnosed with autism prefer using the term ‘autistic’ to describe themselves – this is known as identity-first language (for example, “I’m autistic”). They consider autism to be part of their identity, not a condition to be treated.

For a long time people used the term ‘person on the autism spectrum’, known as person-first language (for example, “I’m on the autism spectrum”), and some people still prefer this.

If in doubt, you can always ask an autistic person what term they’d prefer.

In the past, autism was broken down into several different diagnoses, including:

  • Asperger’s Syndrome
  • autistic disorder
  • Kanner’s Syndrome
  • childhood autism
  • atypical autism
  • Pervasive Development Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS)

Because these diagnoses all had the characteristics of autism, they were removed and replaced with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), or autism for short. People also use the term ‘autism spectrum condition’ (ASC).

The most important thing to bear in mind when we talk about autism, is to do it in a positive way. Don't use autism releated terms in a derogatory or insulting way, and don't accept it if you hear other people using this kind of language.