The topic of people-first language is near and dear to my heart and I have been excited to write a blog post about it! So what am I talking about when I say people-first language? Well, in my full-time job at UCP’s Early Beginnings Academy, I work with children birth – age 7 with a wide variety of special needs – autism, Cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, developmental delay, etc.

Nothing gets my goat more than when I hear someone say “The new child is an autistic boy” or “My new client is a downs girl.” Oy vey! So what I mean by people-first language is just that – instead of putting the label first, but the person first and the condition second. For example, “The new child in Jenny’s class is a boy with autism” or “The girl I provide music therapy services to is diagnosed with Down syndrome.”

Here’s a great resource that provides examples of People First Language:

Here’s the main website where I found this article:

I also think it’s important to use caution when saying “She is suffering from a genetic disorder” or as I saw in an article recently “He is a victim of autism.” I say use caution because how do we know if they are suffering? Usually I will say “She is diagnosed with a genetic disorder” or “He is diagnosed with autism.” It’s objective, rather than subjective.

Handicapped? Disabled? Retarded? Oh my! It seems impossible to keep up with new terminology these days. According to the American Association on Intellectual and Development Disabilities (AAIDD) “the term ‘intellectual disability’ is synonymous with the term ‘mental retardation,’ and is generally replacing it.”  

Just some food for thought to ensure we are being respectful and sensitive to the people who play such a significant role in our lives. What are YOUR experiences/challenges with using person-first language or spreading the word about it?