I don’t really know who decided that “person with autism” was the standard wording to describe autistic people in news stories, but seeing journalists painfully shoehorn that into sentences gives me a headache. It reminds me of this alleged story of an American journalist interviewing a black British celebrity and referring to him repeatedly as “African American”, much to the poor man’s bewilderment and in spite of his constantly correcting him.
There’s nothing wrong with the phrase itself in my opinion, when it’s used interchangeably with other terms, “autistic person”, or “autist”, or “autistic (insert noun relevant to individual described here”. But I’ve seen non-autistic people throw hissy fits in the comments section of news stories about anything other than “person with autism” being used, journalists mangle grammar to insert that when another phrase would have been suitable, and endless debates about the “proper” usage.
As it is, my personal preference is just to be called “autistic”, but I am not going to raise eyebrows if occasionally I get called a “person with autism”. If I get referred to exclusively as that though, it’s going to become annoying after a while, trust me.
Journalists of North America, please learn to stop listening to the persnickety neurotypicals and just identify the person you are interviewing the way they ask you to. If you’re talking about a general populace and not pertaining to a specific individual or group, please, just use “autistic people” to avoid the word salad. It’s not the end of the world, and I assure you that there are almost no autistic people who are going to be genuinely offended by being referred to as “autistic”.
Put the grammar argument aside, and focus on making your articles less offensive by not portraying autistic people as being collectively hopeless, childlike, stupid, savant-like, or victims. You’ve got to brush up on that a lot more than you do your word usage. And no more using Autism Squeaks or the Autism Science Foundation as the source of your citations and statistics on autism, please.
You may consider this my list of demands to the journalists of North America, if not the world.