Sunday, October 2, 2011

{31 for 21} The Language: Two.

When I was a freshman in college, I was introduced to writings by Kathie Snow regarding people-first language.  The setting was an adapted physical activity class, which focused on adapting physical education for people with special needs.

A few years later, I heard the articles mentioned again in the context of Capernaum, which is Young Life's ministry for kids with special needs.

During my fellowship as I special education teacher, I was again asked to read Kathie Snow's articles, and I'll admit, I was getting a little sick of them.

Until the article was about MY kid.  And I realized that most people have never read this article, or heard a similar message, and that's not their fault.  But still, the language matters. So I'm sharing this because by using "people-first" language, you can make people with disabilities and their families feel more valued and respected. I figure about 300 people read each post.  Half of you have your own child with Down syndrome, so you already know all this.  That leaves 150 people who are about to learn something new!

Even though I'm a teacher, I'll cheat for you and summarize the main point.  We refer to people with disabilities as PEOPLE with disabilities, not disabled people.  Yes, the former is harder to say.  The message matters, though.

People are first and foremost people.  So Ellie isn't a Down's baby, she is a baby with Down syndrome.  (Or, for the Brits, a baby with Down's syndrome.  Different rules there, they get an "s".)  Kids with autism are just that, KIDS with autism, not autistic kids.

There.  Now you know. 

And one more little note on language.  "Cognitive impairment" has replaced "mental retardation" because too many people use "retarded" as a generic insult.  Please, don't be one of them.  I'll let Lauren Potter of Glee fame explain.  (NOTE: This video uses slurs to make a point.  Kids, watch with Mom or Dad.)

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  1. I wish more people would realize the importance of this. I encounter more in the medical profession than in day to day life. Saw Ellie's calendar pic...she's beautiful!

  2. I like that video - and I'm over from Becca's because that photo of Ellie is TOO TOO TOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO precious!!!!!!!!

  3. I don't fault people for not using People First language, if they just don't know or have reason to know (but that doesn't mean I don't cringe when I hear the incorrect language). If they are in a position that they *should* know better, I have a real problem with it. Sammi's Vice Principal at her previous school, the person in charge of the Special Education program, didn't use People First in one of our IEP meetings last year, and I was very quick to school him. Even my husband (who usually doesn't see what all the fuss is about) jumped on him. LOL

    Great post, Megan!

  4. Great post! My mom recently told me how she corrected a friend of hers in regard to the "r-word". I have to believe that slowly, but surely, people-first language will become the norm and the r-word will fade into the background, not to be mentioned again.

  5. Cracked up at your reply to my "wanting" your very darling Ellie!

    She is so,so cute and I intend on hanging here a bit this morning and getting to know her and you all.

    We share a commonality of a child who sports an extra chromosome as well as I see, a love for running. I am running the San Francisco Nike Women's next month and the Santa Barbara the next month.(I am from California!) For me running is my best therapy. Very best. As well as it allows me to raise money for causes that are near and dear to me.

    You see Zoey came packaged with a bit more than the extra 21st. Much like Ellie and others that are packaged with that magic DNA. She had AV complete, was born with a rare form of leukemia, had a stroke inutero, had a complicated seizure disorder AND just because she thought perhaps that wasn't enough, she decided to tackle full blown leukemia, AML M7, at the age of 19 months. See, I could fundraise for just about everything and anything!!!

    Okay, writing a novel here. Happy to meet you and your little cutie pie. This world of blogging has been such an incredible gift to me. Another of my forms of therapy a mom to 6, I have a few of them!


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