The National Autistic Society exists to champion the interests of all people with autism and relies on the media to report issues relating to autism in a factual and inoffensive way.

We encourage journalists to use positive language about autism and to check that copy is in line with the following guidelines. Includes guidelines at the bottom of the page on the correct pronunciation of 'Asperger'.

Don't say Do say
an autistic/autist/autie/aspie
[Some individuals may refer to themselves in this way, however]
person/baby/child with autism/on the autism spectrum; autism (including Asperger syndrome); he/she has autism
suffers from OR is a victim of autism has autism/an autism spectrum disorder (ASD)
(Note: The term ASD is used by many people but some prefer the term 'autism spectrum condition' or 'on the autism spectrum' because it avoids the negative connotations of 'disability' or 'disorder'.)
retarded/mentally handicapped/backward person with a disability
disease/illness/handicap disability OR condition
Asperger syndrome is a mild/rare form of autism Asperger syndrome is a form of autism
(Asperger is pronounced with a hard g)
normally developing children typically developing children
normal neurotypical
(Note: This term is only used within the autism community so may not be applicable in, for example, the popular press.)


Myths Facts

Autism (including Asperger syndrome) is a rare condition.

Autism (including Asperger syndrome) is much more common than many people think. There are around 700,000 people in the UK with autism - that's more than 1 in 100. If you include their families, autism touches the lives of 2.7 million people every day.

All people with autism have a extraordinary ability like the Dustin Hoffman character in the film Rainman.

People with autism who have an extraordinary talent are referred to as 'autistic savants'. Savants are rare: Between 2 and 3% of the UK population have some degree of learning disability, but only 0.06% of these were initially estimated to possess an unusually high level of specific ability. Savant ability is more frequently associated with those having some form of autism rather than with other disabilities. Current thinking holds that at most 1 or 2 in 200 individuals with an autism spectrum disorder might have a genuine savant talent. However, there is no reliable frequency estimate as yet as there is still no register of people with autism in the UK.

Asperger syndrome is a middle class malady made up by parents to excuse their badly behaved children.

Asperger syndrome is a very real and very disabling condition that has its own set of diagnostic criteria. It is often diagnosed slightly later than autism at around 11-13 years but its effects are just as real and can be devastating if people's needs are not met.

Only children have autism and they can get better or grow out of it.

Autism is a lifelong developmental disability with no cure. Children with autism grow up to be adults with autism.

Autism is the result of emotional deprivation or emotional stress.

Autism is a complex developmental disability involving a biological or organic defect in the functioning of the brain.

Autism is a new phenomenon.

The first detailed description of a child we now know had autism was written in 1799 by Jean Itard in his account of the wild boy of Aveyron.

A person with autism cannot be educated.

With the right structured support within and outside of school, individuals with autism can be helped to reach their full potential.

People with autism wish to avoid social contact.

People with autism are often keen to make friends but, due to their disability, find this difficult.

Autism is due to parental rejection or cold, unemotional parents.

Autism has nothing whatsoever to do with the way parents bring up their children.

People with autism cannot work Our research indicates that only 15% of adults with autism are in full-time paid employment. But, with simple adjustments to the workplace, adults with autism can make excellent employees – and not just in technical roles. Many people with the condition thrive in a structured and well organised environment and have many strengths that can give employers a competitive edge, such as accuracy, good eye for detail, and reliability. 
Autism only affects men.

There is no hard evidence of numbers - various studies, together with anecdotal evidence, have come up with male:female ratios ranging from 2:1 to 16:1. But recent research suggests that the number of females and males with autism is actually far more equal than diagnosis rates would suggest.

This discrepancy may be due to the way past research into autism has largely concentrated on males, which means the way we understand autism tends to be very much based on the experiences of men and boys with the condition and/or because diagnosticians have been more ready to identify autism in males. This can make it difficult for women and girls to have their needs recognised and to access the right support.

How to pronounce 'Asperger'

Asperger is a German name and should be pronounced with a hard 'G', as there is no soft 'G' in the German language. As a guide, Asperger should rhyme with the surname of the famous racing driver Gerhard Berger.
Someone wrote to the NAS recently to say that that people might see negative connotations with the wrong pronunciation when a soft 'G' is used. She pointed out that 'Asperges' with a soft 'G' (as in purge) is the name of a religious rite, a purging ceremony, concerned with the purging of sin. 'Aspergere' is Latin for 'to wash or sprinkle'.