People First Language

So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God He created them. Genesis 1:27

By: Melissa Pope

Let’s talk about People First Language. It’s pretty simple really. This is language that emphasizes the person NOT the disability.

I can’t tell you how many times, from well meaning people, I have heard the phrase “Down syndrome baby”. Honestly, it’s like fingernails on the chalkboard. She’s a “child with Down syndrome”. She doesn’t “suffer from” and isn’t “afflicted with” Down syndrome.

Similarly, we need to re-think the descriptive wording of any disability. People are not wheelchair bound, instead they use or need a wheelchair. A person is visually impaired not simply a “blind” man. Children or adults with learning disabilities have special needs. People who don’t have learning disabilities are “typical” (instead of “normal”).

And while I’ve got your ear let’s get rid of that “R” word (retarded). When I’ve used it in the past, it was a reference to something dumb, illogical or weird. People with Down syndrome can be classified as mentally retarded (MR). If you get to know and love them they are definitely not any of those descriptions.

The words we use shape the perceptions of our society. God doesn’t make mistakes. If all of us are truly made in His image, the words we use should be sensitive and fair.

Links I’ve found helpful:

-What is it like to raise a child with a disability?

Welcome to Holland by Emily Perl Kingsley

-National Down syndrome groups

National Down Syndrome Congress

-Support organization for families and children with special needs – NWA


Related Article by Melissa Pope: A Not-So-Typical Life

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  1. Pingback: A Not-So-Typical Life | Mosaic Of Moms

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