Published Dec 20, 2004
How much does it bother you to hear terms like "mongoloid", "crippled", "victim of whatever (eg autism)" or to hear DD referred to as a disease? It bothers me more to hear these terms from people who should know better, like pediatricians (here in CA, the name of the Crippled Children's Society was changed to California Children Services over 25 years ago, but recently a colleague told me a parent just received a referral to the former agency from her child's pediatrician!) than it does from laypeople, but I do try to tactfully introduce People First language whenever I can. The thing that irks me the most is when stories in the media use these terms, because they have this power to reach thousands of people and that opportunity is usually lost. A couple weeks ago, a local reporter wrote a feature article about an after school program for children with autism and typically developing peers and I actually sent the writer an email saying "I think this is the first time that I've read a story about children with a disability and didn't get irritated" because she clearly did her homework and didn't use that horrible language that doesn't even recognize the child (like calling a child with autism "an autistic"). Do you personally, or does your agency, have an official policy on using People First language and introducing it to others? We do distribute People First language packets in our outreach materials, but any letters to the editors or such have to be signed by me as an individual, without affiliating myself to our agency (don't want to cheese off any benefactors, I guess). The state DD watchdog agency used to send out People First language materials to the media, but since the budget cuts have come along, they don't have the money or manpower to do so.
I have noticed more tact being used when addressing various terms used for human challenges that differ from what society views as "the norm". Some changes have been for the better, too. :)
I agree the media and each individual addressing those various human challenges should be more respectful of the terminology used in situations such as you mention in your post.
"Teach one...Learn one" is something we should all keep in mind. :)
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