"People-First" Language

You’re probably wondering what a picture of the Y’s pool has to do with “people-first” language.   Absolutely nothing.  I don’t know how to put  pictures throughout my post but I can post them at the beginning so you’ll have to wait until further down  when I talk about the pool!

This morning I emailed back and forth to a friend about the importance of “people-first” language when talking about people who have a disability.  The issue of children with disabilities came up in my Sunday School class yesterday so I went through my files to review what I have on disability. If you don’t know what “people-first” language is, it’s language that describes what a person HAS, and not what a person is.     

For example how many times have you said or heard someone else say “she’s autistic” or  “she’s confined to a wheelchair.”  What I really hate is when someone calls me “brain damaged.”  Yes, my brain is injured but I’m much more than my damaged brain!  This morning I swam laps at the Y , my dog Sparky is sitting on the sofa next to me and I’m going to help my husband do a presentation on brain injury next week for some folks involved in law enforcement in Haywood county.  Here’s a link to Kathie Snow’s suggestions for using people first language. http://www.disabilityisnatural.com/images/PDF/pflchart09.pdf  On that site you also may read a longer article about “people- first” language.”

I didn’t realize how important using this language is until I began using it myself. My whole concept of people with disabilities changed. I began to see them (or us, since TBI is a disability) totally differently.  No longer were they nameless or faceless because I was too busy focusing on their wheelchairs rather than them.  Yes it is true that people with disabilities often need help but everyone needs help in their lives.  It’s often just magnified when a person has a disability. And the truth is, people with disabilities can often do much more than folks without disabilites think, if they would just be patient and give us the chance!

As usual, I’ve gotten involved in doing too many things.  They aren’t stressful things and it’s really not too much by the world’s standards but my brain can’t take as much now. One of the ways I deal with cognitive overload is by swimming hard laps at the Y.  It felt so good to get away from things and I now feel so much better.

Hunting through my disability files reminded me that I need to organize my papers again.  I used to function just fine when papers were piled on my desk but now it stresses me out.  I HAVE to organize my life better or I won’t be able to function. So a little at a time, I will organize my office.  I really hate organizing things but if I split it up in short segments, it will be okay.

Have you heard of “people-first” language?  Have you tried using it for yourself and for others?  See upper right for commenting instructions or contact me directly at puffer61@gmail.com

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