Why is Using People First Language So Hard?

I have been thinking about this a lot lately.  The use of People First Language.

Or the lack of it, actually.

And it drives me crazy! I am sure most people don’t think about it or how powerful language really is. I get upset when the media doesn’t use it and I am thankful when they do.  When I see relatives of people with disabilities NOT using it, that is when it upsets me the most. Who better to teach others that people are NOT their disabilities?

What IS People First Language you might ask?

Simply, it is putting the person BEFORE the disability, which then describes what a person HAS not who they ARE.

When you use a word before the person, you are automatically using that word to describe them.

One of the most common I hear?

I have an autistic son. Or an autistic brother, sister, daughter, grandchild, etc.  Think about that. What do you first think of when someone says that?  Autism. This person/child automatically is defined by that.  When you do that, you rob them of all of their traits, everything that makes them who they are.

Do you know someone who uses a wheelchair?  Do you describe them to others as your wheelchair bound friend, relative, etc?

Do you wear glasses?  Do you tell people that you are a vision impaired individual?

Do you know someone that has cancer?  Do you describe them as your cancerous friend/relative?

I didn’t think so.

Why not?

Because that is not who they ARE.

My son has a disability. Do you see it looking at this picture? No?

Image

His disability is not who he IS.  It is something he HAS.

My son has a name. Jamie.

He is tall, has blue eyes. He is funny. He is smart. He loves movies and collects VHS tapes. He loves his internet. He loves to write. He loves music. He loves the radio. He is good at art. He likes to shop with his brother. He loves pepperoni pizza. He has a disability.

So you can see why it is important that we use People First Language.

Because after all, aren’t we ALL people first? Don’t we ALL deserve respect?

Here are some places you can read up on People First Language:

http://inclusionproject.org/for-families/people-first-language/

http://www.thearc.org/page.aspx?pid=2523

I hope you take the time to read a little more!

And who knows..maybe we can all someday call kids like this just who they are…like this one,  Jamie!

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