Respectful language

There is no set terminology on which all autistic people are agreed. It is important to respect individual choice and be mindful of different perspectives.

Identity-first language

The Autism Centre of Excellence at Cambridge uses identity-first language (autistic child, autistic people) rather than person-first language (child with autism, people with autism) because the majority of autistic people have expressed a preference for this. However, we recognise there are a variety of perspectives on preferred language and will always respect and accept the language any individual chooses to use when referring to themselves. We encourage reflection on use of language and want to see further research exploring the different perspectives on respectful language in different countries and cultures.

Formal Terminology 

Current diagnostic systems use the term Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) to refer to autism. The Autism Centre of Excellence at Cambridge opts not to use the term ASD because many feel that the term ‘disorder’ medicalises autism and confers unnecessary negative connotations.

Asperger Syndrome was a term that was used to refer to autistic people who had at least average IQ and no language delay. This term is no longer included in formal diagnostic systems, though some people prefer to retain this label because it has become part of their identity.

We simply use the term autism to refer to the whole autism spectrum, adding a description of co-occurring conditions where it is helpful (e.g., autism plus epilepsy; or autism plus intellectual disability).

Further reading:

Cohen With Students

Why is better support needed?

More than 1% of the population is autistic. But sadly, most autistic people do not receive good quality support. Find out why the Autism Centre of Excellence at Cambridge was created and what we aim to achieve together.

About Us

The Autism Centre of Excellence at Cambridge (ACE) is a science-led campaigning charity working closely with Cambridge University’s Autism Research Centre. Our aim is to improve access to high quality support and remove barriers and stigma for autistic people.

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