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Person First Language

Hey all! I am coming to you today to talk about a personal pet peeve of mine, person first language. I first want to say I am not writing this post to “call anyone out” or anything, but I want to help people see the light on the “PC” way to address children and adults with disabilities.
When I was working on my undergrad at Bowling Green State University, I had this professor who basically scared the living day lights out of me. He was the only teacher who taught the classes specific to teaching students with moderate to intensive needs and his class was HARD. By the end of my senior year I was so grateful for having him as a teacher because he taught me SO much. The lesson that he instilled in me the most was that disabilities are not adjectives. Autism, Down Syndrome, Learning Disabilities…..they are in no way shape or form a way to describe someone. A persons disability is a part of who they are, but it is not equal to being happy, mean, scared, ugly, beautiful or the millions of other adjectives in the English Language. A persons disability is a medical diagnosis. They are PEOPLE First not the disability that testing on an ETR or a doctor has deemed fitting.
 My professor I mentioned above trained me in not saying the disability first by taking points off papers and test essays if used it, but it stuck with me further than a grade in a class. He taught me that the students in my future classroom deserve the respect to not be defined by their disability and to look at life and the unique people in it from a different angle. This lesson is not in my daily life and I try to teach and advocate others on the best way to speak of my students with respect and dignity.
 So now you are aware and making the change to incorporate this language into your daily life, but other people you encounter don’t know…understand…or are aware of this language. Now what?!?!
I hope this post has enlightened you to spread the awareness that our students are people with so many amazing qualities that make them who they are. Whatever their diagnosis is does not define them, but shapes them into incredible human beings!
2022 UPDATE: While I personally choose to use person first language I understand individuals with disabilities have come out with the idea that they would like disability first. I 100% respect that and if someone with a disability tells me their preference I will absolutely make sure to identify them as they wish. It is all about understanding and respect for those that we interact with in and out of the classroom!
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