Words are important! They hold meaning! Words have the ability to lift people up to promote and celebrate them and also have the potential to alienate and marginalize people. We must choose our words carefully so we don’t unintentionally get into a deficit mindsets with our students.
Condition First Language: This is when you put the condition first when speaking about people who have disabilities. An example of this is: A blind child
Person First Language: Put the child/person first before the condition. An example of this is: A child who is visually impaired (blind). Think of children with disabilities as children first.
Children with disabilities have a wide variety of skills. Some children with disabilities may be gifted in some areas. It is not helpful to think of any group of disabilities as a homogenous group.
Focus on what students can do to create a strength based approach. Before an IEP meeting, create a list of the child’s strengths to start the meeting with. What is an IEP?
Exceptions: The Deaf population typically refers to themselves as Deaf because they have a stand alone language (American Sign Language). They use the capital D in the word Deaf as well. Recently people with autism have been sharing their desire to be called autistic because they acknowledge that although they are not neuro-typical. They are proud of who they are and want to acknowledge their autism.
Check with the individual: It is always best practice to check with the individual to see what langauge they prefer. When you are in a school, defer to using person first langauge unless told otherwise.
Building resilience for children who are experiencing bullying or have Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES): When students are being bullied, they are more likely to experience:
Depression and anxiety. Signs of these include increased feelings of sadness and loneliness, changes in sleep and eating patterns, and loss of interest in activities they used to enjoy. These issues may persist into adulthood.
Creating Resilience– Focusing on gratitude Cultivate Gratitude For Students With ACES for what you have in your life has been proven to support students with ACES. Educators and parents can help young children focus on the support they already have in their lives. Here are two ideas to promote resilience in the home and in the classroom:
At home support: Heart Garland of Love and Support:
Hang a heart garland showing the names of people who care about the child where they can see it every day. We created it together and I allowed him to brainstorm the people in his life who care about him. He came up with 4 close family members and one teacher from his school. Every day when we wakes up and before he goes to bed, the garland acts as a visual reminder to focus on the people who have his back and care about him.
Alternative Ideas: For children who can’t read yet, you can put small pictures of the people. Gratitude: Each heart can contain one word signifying what the child is grateful for or positive core qualities the person possesses.
In School Support: Lace Up Your Best Personal Qualities Art Activity
One of my students at SOU created this fun classroom art activity for students to identify 5 things they notice about their peers that are great or positive. Each student in class has a shoe and the “laces” have a word or something positive about each student in class. Some examples of positive words include “reliable, kind, outgoing and good friend”
What are some ways you provide emotional support for students who are bullied or have ACES?