I realize that in the world of disabilities, we are quite fortunate. Matthew can walk, he can talk. He wears underpants, not diapers. He has seizures, but we are lucky - his seizures are successfully controlled by medication. He has apraxia of speech, a profound speech disorder that made it very difficult for him to learn to talk - but with time, intensive speech therapy, patience and the right mix of speech therapists and speical education teachers, he is talking! He became verbal at 4 years, 9 months -it was a true miracle to us. He has low muscle tone - meaning he is floppy, uncoordinated and most likely will not ever learn to ride a two-wheeler. He has autism, which makes his brain function differently from mine. He processes his senses in a way that is very difficult for me to understand. He has sensory processing disorder, and we have learned ways to give him sensory breaks when he needs them. He is learning to tell us when he needs a sensory break and specifically what he needs - sometimes a heavy blanket, other times a "press" (picture joint compressions), a quiet room, music or to be outside. He is learning to read and has ideas that he wants to write. Holding a pencil and writing is difficult for him because of his low muscle tone and dyspraxia, but he is able to get a few sentences/ideas written on the computer. He is Matthew - he is our son - we are lucky!
In the world of disabilities where I now reside, I have learned to speak a dialect that I didn't even know existed. I now speak it fluently, and would like to share some of the most important rules with you.
My son is not "an autistic boy". He is a "boy who has autism".
His friend is not the "down syndrome boy". He is the "boy with down syndrome".
You are not the "skin cancer man". You are the "man with skin cancer".
My friend is not "the left handed woman". She is "the woman who is left handed".
We are all People First. The language examples described above show how to speak in the "people first" manner of speaking. The idea is to put the person first, not the disability.
If you are interested in reading further about People First Language, please click below. Now that you are aware of this way of speaking, you will notice rule followers and those that need to learn about People First Language. Please educate them!! Pass it on!
Another language rule is: there are certain words that should not be used at all. One of these words I used as a young girl in the 70’s and 80’s to describe something that I thought was “yucky”. Today, it is known as the R word.
“When you use the R-word you never know who is listening, it could be someone with a disability or someone who has a family member with a disability. Even if no harm is intended to people with disabilities, the R-word hurts.
Vocabulary develops over time, and it will take time for you to eliminate the R-word from your own vocabulary. People with disabilities and their advocates understand that. All we ask is that you become more aware of the R-word and replace it with something new – maybe ridiculous, silly, outlandish or bizarre.”
Quote taken from: