How about "Downs"?
What about "Quad"?
In our society we love labels. They are short, efficient and get the point across. The problem is when we start talking about people with labels it can quickly move into prejudice. I hear people say, "he is autistic" all the time. "She is a quad". I don't believe that these people mean harm but for me it is like fingernails on a chalk board.
In my professional community we have a phrase called "people first language". As an advocate for children I feel the necessity to share this concept with everyone. We are changing the way society feels about special education. Our communities are helping students and families, rather than shunning them. How many people do you know that are connected to someone with autism. A lot, I'm sure, because 1 in 70 children have autism. Yep.
The term "autistic" is problematic for a few reasons; much like the word "retarded". In its adjective form it describes a person. The problem with these descriptions is that it captures only a smidge of who that individual is. When we use people first language we put the person, well, first. The other problem I have with the word "autistic" is that I know many, many, MANY children and adults who have a diagnosis of autism but do NOT display typical symptoms and you may never know that diagnosis. Any really, why would you? It isn't important.
I have a thyroid disorder. Is that important for you to know to know who I am? I would never be considered "the thyroid lady". It is only one piece of my make up. I am a lot of things. I am a wife, a mother, a teacher, a writer, a runner, an advocate, a daughter, a friend, etc. etc.
The little child in your kids' class is a son, a daughter, a sister, a brother, a bike rider, an artist, a math wiz, a reader, a friend, soccer player. He or she may also have autism but that is only a tiny part of who they are.
Here's your key...
has autism not autistic
has down syndrome not downs
has quadripelegia not a quad
has mental retardation (yes, it is politically correct to say that) not retard