The Person… First
“You know who I am talking about… That ___________person”
“She is __________. I think her name is Sue.”
Why must we put the label first? Why do we let a label define us? We all have such long lives to live and most of us will go through different incarnations. One day, one label suffices and the next day it is totally wrong.
What about a child? How about the child with a developmental disability? Why do we let their diagnosis define them?
I have been lucky enough to be give two major blessings in my life. My sons bring so much joy and light into my life. They teach me new things every single day.
My oldest, Ben is an incredibly sensitive and empathetic little boy. He knows just the right way to give you a hug when you are sad. He watches over his little brother and makes sure that he doesn’t stray too far from his best friend the hippo. He loves Thomas the tank engine, and Curious George and the movie Cars. Ben has the deepest most contagious belly laugh and a very special twinkle in his eyes.
Ben lives in a special world that we are a just lucky to be visiting. He sees the truth behind everything. He knows the deep down meaning of love.
Ben sounds like a typical little boy who loves to run and play with his toys. You wouldn’t be surprised to hear that his nickname at school is “The Mayor”. There are so many adjectives to describe Ben, that Autism is always LAST on the list. His diagnosis does not define his identity. It does not change who he is, it supplements it. The word autistic is never placed before my son.
The concept of person first language is to emphasize the person rather than the special need, the individual and not the diagnosis. By changing the way a sentence is structured the focus changes with the intent of focusing on our commonalities. With person first language Ben going from being, “My Autistic son Ben” to “My son Ben who has Autism.”
To see more information on how you can utilize person first language check out this simple chart People First Chart