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© 2019 THE INCLUSION BLOG. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Is person-centered language actually person-centered?

Thought for the week;  do you know how the people you support want to talk about their disability?  How they’d like to have their disability referred to in the context of themselves?  I’ve never really questioned that before and realized it’s high time I did.

I was taught in a very similar manner as Sarah Levis, a writer on the Ollibean blog.  In her article, Musing of An Autism Outsider:  Realizing How Much I Didn’t Know, she discuses being taught to use person-first language.  An example I use is ‘person(s) living with developmental disabilities’, or in Sarah’s case, ‘person with autism’.  We do this because it affirms person-hood before disability.  I was intrigued to read how many autistic self-advocates prefer to merge disability and identity.

photo credit: CarbonNYC via photopin cc
photo credit: CarbonNYC via photopin cc

Many autistic self-advocates see autism as a vital and integral part of their self concept.  So it follows that they want to embrace it as part of their definition of person-hood as opposed to separating it.  Phrasing like ‘Austistic’, ‘Autistic person’, or ‘Autistic individual’ are what they’re looking to see more of.

For a captivating discussion on the topic, read Lydia Brown’s article, The Significance of Semantics:  Person-First Language:  Why it Matters.  Lydia runs an excellent blog called Autistic Hoya if you’re hungry for more awesome insights into autism.

All of this got me thinking about communicating with people about emotionally charged topics.  How we define ourselves and talking about what we need from each other is tricky, tricky, tricky.

Have you heard of Brene Brown?  If you haven’t heard her half hour lecture on The Power of Vulnerability, you should.  It’s amazing.  It’s all about building connection, empowerment, and ‘getting’ another person’s perspective.  Which is valuable for anyone who needs to get in touch with another human being…which is all of us. 😀

Brene’s a frequent TED talker and has several books…but since most of live in a time starved universe, watch the following video.  It’s an entertaining animated highlight reel of some her major points on communication and empathy.

P.s.  If you followed the link to Brene’s lecture on vulnerability, it says it’s an hour long.  The lecture itself is about 30 min, the rest is the Q&A with the crowd.  All of it is great but if you’re short on time you only need a half hour to get all of Rene’s talk, not an hour.

 

 

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Inclusion Blog Post

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  1. Meite….this is an interesting concept as its something that I have noticed about Temple Grandin….who really embraces her autism as a positive thing. I feel however that as a general rule when talking about someone we should be conscious of using person centered language and that the person is not defined by their disability, they are in fact a person first. I feel that using statements like “autistic” is only powerful when coming from a self advocate with autism, speaking about themselves.
    I feel that language is something that I am very passionate about and ensuring that we do not use language that creates a negative image of someone and unfortunately in a society that does not yet value people to their most potential as some of us do….sliding backwards into talking about someone as “autistic” rather than a “person who has autism”….we are doing an injustice to what we are working so hard to achieve….which is equality for all people, not defined by their disability….just people living their lives.
    Having said all this, I have not yet read or watched the articles that you mentioned….however I will as I always enjoy ways to learn and new perspectives to think about.

    • Hi Crystal and thanks for commenting! You bring up some great points. I think there’s room for both perspectives. Ultimately it’s up to the person on how they’d like to discuss their disability. A person may have a person centered focus, they may not, and that’s okay by me.

      I agree that push back is required to break down barriers and to emphasize the point that people should be included in society and lead equitable lives. There’s still people out there who only see disability, not a person. I’ll always write to advocate on behalf of the person-hood of all people, regardless of ability.

      I plan to continue writing using the person centered style approach and I remain a huge fan of the person centered movement. However, I don’t want to dictate how people perceive themselves. If a person has a preference I will include that perspective in how I write their story. If Temple Grandin called me tomorrow and wanted me to write a blog post about her, I would absolutely refer to her in the way and manner she deemed best.