I don’t think you can be involved in the autism community long without dealing with the idiosyncrasies of autism semantics and “people first language.” In my writing I have defaulted to using people first language but on occasion have decided not to. I wrote a bit about this in my post Autism parent vs. parent of a child with autism.
I find the people first language debate very interesting.
Those who are passionate about people first language find it offensive when someone says autistic, or autism parent, because they feel what is being emphasized is autism. By putting autism before the person in your sentence structure it can be perceived that you are summing up who the person is entirely by the fact that they have autism, or are the parent of a child with autism. Instead, when using people first language you should say person with autism, or parent of a child with autism. By doing this you are recognizing autism is only one part of the individual.
Those who find people first language frustrating, or are even against it, don’t see what the big deal is. For these people autism isn’t necessarily a negative thing so there isn't a need to tip toe around it. As one commenter on my blog put it “when someone tells me that I am wrong to call my son autistic [it] really bugs me. I say "my blue eyed son," why should saying "my autistic son" be any different? In my eyes, autism is just one other characteristic of my son, the same as his blue eyes or brown hair.”
When it comes down to it I agree with both sides to an extent.
I have corrected people on rare occasion that Lexi isn’t autistic she has autism. These rare occasions have happened when people have ruffled my feathers and I felt like they were marginalizing my child. Lexi is one of a kind and I refuse to have her marginalized. I also do not want Lexi looked at as a broken child with a disability. She is wonderfully unique Lexi, who happens to have autism.
On the other hand I personally prefer to be called an “autism parent” instead of “a parent of a child with autism.” I have also heard/read many who have autism call themselves autistic, example: Temple Grandin has called herself and others autistic. Plus, I know many loving, caring, devoted, parents that call their children autistic. I do not believe these parents should be talked down to as if they don’t love their child for this word choice. Plus a part of me really agrees that the stigma around autism needs to be removed. Being autistic should not be a negative thing. Just like being diabetic isn’t a negative thing. It is just part of life.
When it comes down to it I think people first language is similar to autism, there are many perspectives and sides to the issue. Both sides of the people first language debate have a point. I believe each side has its place and should be respected.
So whether you say person with autism, autistic, or both, you will not find any judgment from me.