Warning - this email may contain traces of ranting - I'm going to blame it on this crazy Spring weather and a full moon!
Language is so very important and today I am specifically referring to our choice of words when talking about people with medical conditions and disabilities.
Do you notice any difference between these phrases?
An autistic person OR a person with autism
A diabetic OR a person with diabetes
A disabled person OR a person with a disability
A depressive OR a person with depression
A sufferer of migraines OR a person who experiences migraines
An alcoholic OR a person who has an addiction to alcohol
An anorexic OR a person with anorexia nervosa
Would you rather be referred to as the medical condition you happen to have or as a person first? Umm...let me think about that...just kidding person please!. Because that's what we are - people - whole, complete, wonderful people... who may just happen to have a medical condition or a disability.
This is something the United Nations calls "people-first language" and is discussed in the guidelines about inclusivity for people with disabilities 2019. However I was first taught this at university 20 years ago! This is not new thinking and yet I am still hearing health professionals, the media and society generally persisting with the condition-first language.
It was highlighted to me recently while listening to the ABC discuss the new Autism strategy for South Australia. It sounded like a great initiative but I was horrified to hear the government representative, the reporter and the callers using the phrases autistic kids and autistic people...even when talking about themselves or their loved ones.
These are children and people first and foremost. The autism is secondary.
We need to look at ourselves and each other as whole, complete people and use our language to represent that. The medical condition is only a tiny part of us. We are physical, mental, emotional and energetic beings. There is so much more to us than a medical condition or a disability and when we acknowledge that in ourselves and in each other it can open up our world. When we do the opposite and use language like "I am an autistic person" our sub-conscious focusses in on the label autistic. Without even realising it we are programming ourselves and others to start to identify with that part of ourselves in a disproportionate way and our world often gets smaller and smaller.
Person first, condition second.
If this message resonates with you please talk about it with family, friends or work colleagues. And on an individual level, we can all start by acknowledging ourselves and each person we interact with as a whole person.
Thank you for reading and happy people-first languaging,
P.P.S. Online bookings are available for current clients.