Tuesday, October 28, 2014

People First Language

People First Language matters so much to me both as a teacher and as a person. This way of talking and thinking is so important to me that sometimes I have a difficult time speaking about it eloquently or meaningfully. This blog is my best shot of doing just that.

People First Language is important because it puts the person BEFORE the disability. In an article about People First Language, Kathy Snow writes, "A disability is, first and foremost, a medical diagnosis, and when we define people by their diagnoses, we devalue and disrespect them as individuals (www.disabilityisnatural.com/)." One of the best (and easiest) ways to combat prejudice surrounding disabilities and people with disabilities is to focus on the language that we use. When we put the person before the disability, we are describing what the person has and not what the person is.

From a teaching standpoint, this is important because the way we talk about students ends up- subconsciously or not- coloring the way we support and teach them. When we talk about "IEP kids" or "SPED students" or "the Learning Disabled girl" we are lumping students together by their diagnosis. The unspoken assumption becomes that all students under the "SPED" or "IEP" label require the same supports and have the same needs.

Remember, the I in a student's IEP stands for Individualized. By putting the person first, we are able to see them for the complicated, interesting, and unique individual that they are.  I'll end with something else by Kathy Snow: " People First Language reflects good manners, not 'political correctness'...(www.disabilityisnatural.com/)". Totally, Kath.

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