The power of language: Person-first or disability first?



One approach is person-first language, but not everyone is OK with that! (For image credits, click image for link)

anguage has symbolic power for many people with disabilities.  All too often, we hear “the r word” (retarded) used in a derogatory fashion, for example.  For many years, human service workers have worked towards the use of person-first language.   In this approach to language, the person is identified first, versus the disability.  For example, instead of “the intellectually disabled” we would say “people with intellectual disabilities.” Or, for example, instead of “autistics” we would say “people with autism.”  While it may be a best practice – and a neutral one – to start of usingperson-first language, the best possible practice is to ask the person you are working with what they would like to be called.  One client of mine, for example, has embraced the “disability-first” model in the language she prefers – and calls her self “an autistic.” My sibling, who has an intellectual disability, prefers to be called “a person with special needs.”  The bottom line is, ASK!sillydaddypeoplefirst01b-300x294


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