What's in a Name? Call for Legal Opinion Please

I would like to raise a thorny issue in terminology and request clarification.

The term "Autism Spectrum Disorder" (ASD) is used both in the DSM IV-TR (& proposed 5), and the ICD 10. While these guidelines are used by medical practitioners in diagnostics, the term "Autism Spectrum Conditions" (ASC) has been broadly used since at least 1995 and is growing in popularity. This latter term is widely acknowledged in the UK (including the National Health system), and used by researchers and clinical psychologists both overseas and in Australia. The use of ASC recognises that adults with ASC (such as myself) may consider the term "disorder" to be derogatory based on our experiences and treatment, and in the light of colloquialisms i.e. look up the words "disorder" and "conditions" and compare the definitions. There is simply no positive definition or interpretation for "disorder". Use of "conditions" is a sensitive and respectful acknowledgement of historical treatment and stigmatisation of many adults who were diagnosed during childhood (e.g. institutionalised, physically restrained, subdued, physically and psychologically punished, etc). It also acknowledges a substantial body of research and literature which links language and communication to behaviour, with particular respect to networks of association and priming effects. This is not a simple matter of wording - language influences how humans behave towards other humans.

ASC is also recognised in peer-reviewed research articles as preferential given the heterogeneity of the Autism Spectrum. Various genetic and environmental determinants may contribute to a variety of co-morbid disorders that are unlikely to be present in all individuals. The word "condition" represents a state in which other "conditions" and/or "disorders" may or may not be present, with variable outcomes. In other words, each individual will have their unique set of clinically-defined disorders which will be expressed in behaviour according to their social and environmental contexts. Manipulation of contexts via pharmacological/environmental/educational/social/behavioural (etc) changes can result in the expression of co-morbid disorders within the "normal" range. The overarching state of ASC perhaps also acknowledges that individuals have common sets of disorders which cannot, at this point in time, be "cured" due to unknown underlying aetiology.

I use ASC as a mark of respect for myself and others, however I do not insist that others use this term. I view it as personal choice, given I do not have the time or energy to lobby for awareness or change. (Perhaps about to change?)

The problem is this - I am being intimidated and harassed within an educational setting by a student and a lecturer for choosing to use the term Autism Spectrum Conditions" and acronym ASC instead of Autism Spectrum Disorders and ASD. A vitriolic and illogical argument for me to desist was presented (by a student without ASC) on the basis that the terminology in DSM and ICD 10 governs education departments in Australia. Therefore until such time as education departments change their terminology, my use of ASC in discussion, forums, tutorials, assessments etc is being continually referenced as "incorrect terminology". I find it extremely troubling that special education teachers entrusted with the care of children with ASC value people on the Spectrum in such a negative way, and feel entitled to enforce terminology which may offend. Further, that they appear to avoid evidence-based practice and sound communication principles in favour of blind adherence to questionable "rules" is ironic. They say we perseverate? Really?

Can anyone shed any light on the legal obligations which force a university student to use restricted terminology within academic contexts such as forums and assessments? I intend to formally challenge this harassment as bullying, and I am keen to know whether an insistence by faculty to restrict use of terminology would constitute institutionalised bullying. The key point is that this terminology is not being used in a diagnostic setting - it is being used in academic discourse drawing upon academic literature which clearly supports the use of either ASD or ASC.

Note - I do not want responses defending use of one term over the other - that is a personal decision which I leave to the individual.