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.