Sunday, September 09, 2007

Person-first language

I'm into language. It "bug's" me when people misplace "apohstrophe's" when the point is to pluralize the word.(Apostrophes imply posession, otherwise just add the s, man.) I cringe when I hear preposition problems like "Where did you get that at." (Where implies direction/location, you don't need to add the prep.) But the worst of all (yes, I know, don't start a sentence with the words and/but/or, although they can get you very far. (Oh yes, and 'or' and 'far' don't rhyme)), is the lack of person-first language, especially on professional documents.

I was over at Christine's and she posted about a CDC report about the prevalence of autism. You can visit almost-Kansas for that report, because I'm just going to address the lack of person-first language.

"A person with autism," is much better language than "an autistic person." The latter implies that autism is the most salient and important descriptor for that person. A person with autism has much, much more in common with anyone else in the world than he has differences. He was conceived in the same way, he was born, he is a human being with thoughts and feelings, etc. An adult with Down Syndrome has DS. She is not a "Downs adult." It kills me when I hear about a "Downs baby." What is that?

Anyway, just think about this. Mull, stew, ponder, you get the drill. Autism, just for example, means many things. Some people with autism don't communicate verbally, some are articulate. Some people with Down Syndrome get married, some live with their parents. Probably some get married and live with their parents. People without Down Syndrome do that, right? No diff.

We can celebrate our differences without letting them define us. We're all human beings created by God, and what connects us is much bigger than the things that separate us.

Now watch those apostrophes, people, or I'll come after you. Knock, knock - grammar police...


Christine said...

I have had a person tear me apart for saying that my daughter "is" adopted, as opposed to "was" adopted.

So, you could completely eliminate "adoptee" from use, yet it has its place in certain discussions.

Personally, I just don't care. It's much like the whole "proper adoption language" thing. Some adoptive parents (or should we say, "those who previously adopted a child"?) are terribly hurt and defensive when "bad" adoption language is used. I've never known anyone to use the "wrong" terms in a way to be hurtful. They just don't know.

Most people don't even realize that they flubbed something. Some stumble through their words and give me a helpless look like, "Save me here!" So, I very sweetly restate a "proper" term for them ... only if they seem to be wanting correction.

Interesting, though, that autism would get its own adjective (you have no idea how badly I wanted to write "it's own" right there!!!). Tourettes, OCD, etc. ... none of them get one! I guess I could say that Mackenzie is Tourettestic? Oh man, I'm going to have fun with this one! Obsessive Compulsivey? Attention Deficititious?

Yeah, I just don't care. Yet, I sure will have some fun screwing around with this today! Um ... I mean:

BUT, I sure will have some fun screwing around with it!

Is your head spinning, yet?

heh. heh.

Amy T. S. said...

Yeah, the "is" "was" adopted one is a little tricky. I know adopted persons who like "is" and some who like "was."

One time I was on the news and I talked about the "neonative ICU." I was mortified. lol

I never, ever thought about that about "autistic" being the only adjective. It sort of works with "mentally retarded," too. You might hear "a mentally retarded person." (Although Developmental Disability is more PC. A person with developmental disabilities.)

In a way they're all just words, but I do cringe when I hear "adopt out" or "give up," and I really don't like "adopters," either. It feels accusatory to me. But it's like a certain Carol says - you have to understand the intention behind what's being said rather than just hearing the words.

Yeah, I said mull it over. I guess "screw around with it" works, too, if we're talking about word usage. lol

If we spoke in Greek would this be easier? Aren't words more clear in Greek? Hupah! Baklava, anyone?

Mark and Niki said...

I have a very dear friend with autism. It's a part of who he is, but it does not define him.

In other news, how often do you cringe reading my blog? :)

Gioietta said...

I have to ask the very same think Niki said! I am so 'grammatically challenged!'
I feel like I should apologize every time I post. But I did appreciate this post especially about not defining people by their attributes. I think as Christians it is most imperative to look beyond at the exteriors of the person, or what they have or don't have. I like your second to last paragraph, how we should CELEBRATE differences, I wish we would do that more, but instead I see this push to conformity in society. In Italian we have this saying "The world is beautiful because it is full of variety" And persons who happen to have autism or any other 'difference' in truth challenge me in so many good ways and keep me thinking beyond myself and my perspective and I am so thankful for that. Ok...another long comment! sorry! Thanks again for reminding me about that our identity belongs to our creator...and we all have the same creator!