Sunday, 8 October 2017

Autism and adapting the language on our cards

This is not a blog about what language should be used.

It is a blog about some changes we are making to our cards in response to customer requests.

During initial card creation (in consultation with autistic people) 'person with an autistic spectrum condition' was chosen as it includes those who are on the spectrum but don't identify as autistic. Since then, it's become clear that lots of autistic people - including all my customers that I've spoken to recently - prefer "I'm autistic" - and that not all cards need to mention autism.

So we are re-wording some of our cards to try and find the right balance. On cards likely to apply to people who don't identify as autistic we are trying to change the wording to make them generic instead of autism specific, and changing autism-specific cards to read "I'm autistic". Below are the cards which currently mention autism specifically, and the changes we are suggesting - but before we finalise them over the next few weeks/months, please let us know your thoughts by commenting on this blog post, or replying to the relevant posts on twitter or FB. We won't be able to do what everyone suggests, but we will take all views into account as we come up with the final versions.

1. Current ASC eye contact card:

Suggested edit: "Please don't worry or take offence if I don't make eye contact - I find it difficult and it can make it harder for me to follow conversations or process what is happening." (So it becomes a general card applicable to anyone who struggles with eye contact) (I would be especially interested in feedback on this re-wording as I suspect there are other reasons eye contact may be difficult too so I need a bit more input to make this the best it can be.)

2. Current "Autistic, not naughty" card

Suggested edit: 
Replace the first sentence with: "My child is not being naughty, they are autistic." (rest of card to remain the same.)

3. Current 'Overwhelming' card

Suggested edit: "I'm autistic and find this situation overwhelming. Please let me have the time and space I need to calm down." [Edited to add: This is already also available as a general card with no reference to autism]

4. Current: "Don't stand to close" card

Suggested edit:
Replace middle sentence with: "I am autistic." (the rest of the card to remain the same. - this card is also available with no reference to autism)

5. Current ASC disclosure card:
Suggested edit: Replace first sentence with: "I'm autistic." (the rest of the card to remain the same.)

6. Current ASC new routine card:

Suggested edit: Remove 'I have an ASC' - and leave the rest of the card so it becomes applicable to all conditions where new routines are challenging.

7. Current ASC Personal Assistant card.

Suggested edit: Replace first sentence with "I'm autistic" - rest of the card to remain the same.

If you are autistic, on the spectrum or not-autistic-but-would-find-these-useful, please let us know your thoughts.

Thanks in advance!



  1. Thank you :)
    I love the new wording

  2. I'm autistic (30, F) and much prefer the new wording.

  3. I’m autistic (29, F) and also much prefer the new wording. I shall order some of these when they’re finished :). One comment on the first one if you’re making it more generic: some vision problems can make it difficult to make, or appear to make, eye contact. For example: it’s hard to make eye contact if you can’t see someone’s eyes or if one eye is turned your dominant eye can be making eye contact but other people assume you’re not because they’re paying attention to the wrong eye. These also result in people getting upset about lack of eye contact. I have no idea how to include those and whether they should be separate but you can still have difficulty with concentration on what’s being said when you are trying to make eye contact but can’t see the person’s eyes and people are no more understanding about it.

    1. Excellent point. I will have a think. I suspect I might need to do a different version applicable to the visual impairment.

  4. Hi, Definitely agree with the 'I am Autistic' edit (although maybe keep the other version available for those who may prefer it)
    I have a lot of friends who are blind and VI, (and my mother is also registered blind) and tbh I don't think they *care* if anyone thinks they're making eye-contact or not. It's just not often a consideration at all for people I know. Some people might differ in this, obviously- but I've never encountered the need for such a card personally. Also, as an autistic (and also monocular) person, I don't really want to have to explain why I don't 'give' much eye-contact because I don't see how it's anyone's business really. Can understand that for things like job interviews, maybe- and kids who are less able to advocate for themselves it might be useful.
    I would love a card re: personal space though. That's often an issue- and maybe something relating to shutdowns and selective mutism- because the main times a verbal autistic adult like me would need a card would be in times of extreme stress when I (for one) tend to shutdown and retreat into myself, and am less able to explain myself in a coherent way. Any run-ins with authorities would definitely have this effect- and that's a time when you really need to be able to explain and advocate for yourself clearly, so it's quite scary how easy it is to be misunderstood. Personally, I find the font and colour scheme rather infantalizing for adults- although good for kids. Would be nice to have a more mature option too- although the stickman's fine really. A 'blended spectrum' looks less childish to me, if rainbow colours are to be used.

  5. I actually use and prefer the "I have an autistic spectrum condition" one, because, while I do describe myself as autistic, I like that it mentions the spectrum, because, unless the excrement is currently hitting the rotating blades, I don't really exhibit any of the core stereotypes of autism.

    Thus, reminding people that autism comes in many many shades is good... for me. In a way, it's particularly accurate for me as I only qualified for my diagnosis under the new expanded DSM-V entry rather than the older ones in DSM-IV or ICD-10.

    But it's not a hill I'm prepared to die on, if everyone else feels that it's not appropriate.

  6. I'm Autistic (F), and am not too fussed either way on the language of the cards. I agree that in more serious situations the rainbow stripes may be not so appropriate if as adults we're trying to be taken seriously with our issues. Don't get me wrong, I love rainbows and regularly include them in my outfits, but in the general public eye I think they are associated with childhood and innocence. So perhaps the suggested blended rainbow, or muted colours in the background instead of it being a feature that is immediately noticed. Apart from that I think they are great and plan on ordering some for the times when I shut down and can't communicate my needs or talk at all, or just experience brain fog from my other conditions (similar to yours Hannah). I'd also find it useful to have a card that says I physically can't talk right now and will communicate via _______. When I shut down and can't talk or make eye contact, yet I can still write/type or use sign language, but it seems to everyone else that my brain is no longer able to interact with the outside world.
    Good work, and thank you for being so tuned into people's preferences for their conditions.


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