A Multicultural Literary Magazine
Thee Sim Ling, the author of this piece, has requested us to post these comments by her.
Dear Skipping Stones,
I was concerned about changes in my piece, “Those Stares” that I saw when I received the Winter 2021 issue of Skipping Stones. You had changed the word “autistic” to “with/has autism”, despite me deliberately using the word “autistic” throughout the piece, and I was quite unhappy about that. I understand that the norm is to use Person-First language to refer to a disabled person, such as “person with disabilities” or “person with autism” because it shows respect that someone is a person, before their disability. That, however, is frowned upon in the autistic community I belong in. I believe in Identity-First language, where autistic people express pride in their identity by using the adjective in front. (Some go even more direct and call themselves “an Autistic”.)
In a survey conducted in 2018, more than half of all autistic people said they called themselves an “autistic person”, with less than a quarter saying they used “person with autism”. (A quarter of people said they used them interchangeably.) Here are a few more links you can refer to:
I deliberately used the word “autistic” to reflect my view that environmentalism should be open to everyone. To me, I feel that the removal of language that empowers autistic people is the direct opposite of my intention to write this piece. I hope that in future issues you could consider changing your use of language when referring to autism.
—Thee Sim Ling
2. Thee also makes following additional points in her latest email reply.:
Thank you for reading my email. The Identity-First Movement has long been a hallmark of the autistic and disability community for years, and it is considered by many disability rights activists as the most respectful way to refer to a person. (If we need to remind someone we are a person by putting the word “person” in front of our identity and neurodiversity, then isn’t there a bigger problem?) There are also double standards in society for autistic people, because many are fine when the words “blind people”, “D/deaf people”, “Black people”, “gay people” and even “cancer survivors” are used, but they will suddenly become outraged when the words “autistic people”, “dyslexic people” and “disabled people” are spoken. I understand that the tradition in special education has been to use “person with autism” and “person with special needs”, but I hope that as a leading magazine for diversity in children’s publishing, you can start to change the way disability is portrayed by using language advocated by the disability community.
(It’s good that 25 years ago you refrained from calling people with Hansen’s disease “lepers”, though. But that’s a different case from autistic people, who WANT to be called “autistic”.)
I would be grateful if you can publish the comments on your website. Once again, thank you.
—Thee Sim Ling, 13, Singapore, is the author of “Those Stares.”
You must be logged in to post a comment.