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.)