Our lives became a little [EXTRA] special on February 15, 2011 in a way we never expected.

This is about our journey and the [EXTRA]ordinary people we meet along the way.

Monday, August 20, 2012

People first, people

When I started my career change and graduate school (simultaneously, mind you), I encountered this strange and foreign concept to me called People-First Language. When I was taught the concept, I thought, well, this makes sense! I get that we should discuss individuals with disabilities focusing on the fact that their disability does not define them and they are people or children before they are the disability.

What I didn't know was how long it would take me to make this very conscious change in my own language. And to be honest, it didn't even take full hold until after Wyatt was born. Sometimes I forget that learning curve that I had. ME! The Special Ed teacher who has a child with a disability! So when I now encounter people who don't use People-First Language, I try to be understanding and I try to educate them on the most recent terminology preferences.

So, what exactly IS People-First Language, might you ask?

Like I said, it's identifying the person before you identify the disability.

Let me explain further...

You see, those of us who have kids with a disability want the world to see that our kids are kids FIRST, not the disability. Thus, you say the child WITH Down syndrome, not Down syndrome boy or Downs baby (that one specifically makes me cringe) or for example, say the child who has Autism, don't say Autistic child.

Think of it this way, if you will: this is a medical issue, thus discuss is as such. You don't hear people walking around talking about 'that Cancer kid' or the 'Leukemia Baby'. So why do it with disabilities, which are medically grounded conditions? I prefer that people don't identify our children as only having a disability. They are often bright in many ways, have strengths and weaknesses, just like any child. I prefer that people take the more respectful route of People-First Language. And, please, don't call my child retarded. That's like calling a person who is black a 'Negro' in the disability world, IMHO. See THIS SITE for a better explanation of the "R" word

I encourage all of you to make this slight, but important change in your syntax (order of language) from this point forward in your writing and verbal language. I know I would appreciate it, along with thousands of other parents of beautiful children...who just happen to have a disability.


  1. This is a very good explanation of phenomenon that should not have to be explained. :)