They are children. Not autistics. She is a mom. Not a manic-depressive. He is a college freshman. Not a schizophrenic. She is my nana. Not dimented. She is my daughter. Not a disability. They are PEOPLE. Not LABELS.
First Person Language. What is it? Here. Let me show you.
The special needs kids play over there.
The kids with special needs play over there.
And even better....
The kids need a playground that ALL kids can access.
See what I did there? I put the KIDS first. I even went as far as to remove the diagnosis altogether. The nerve of me, right?
As a parent to a child that has special needs, it is like nails on a chalkboard when I hear someone refer to Emory by her diagnosis FIRST. Her name is not Special Needs Emory. Her name is Emory. She loves kids fashion, and music, and all things art. She loves to dance anywhere she is, and does a mean head nod and fist pump whenever Jay-Z comes on. Her favorite color is pinkpurpleyelloworangered, and nothing seems to scare her. She is eerily emotionally in tuned with people in her environment, and picks up on the human experience in movies, crying her eyes out whenever there is a sad scene. She LOVES animal prints, and colorful bracelets, and bows in her hair - but she absolutely HATES getting her hair done. She would live in the pool if I let her, she makes me negotiate every damn bite she takes during meal time, and if ANYONE else that she loves is close by during dinner, I can't even so much as TOUCH her food. THEY have to feed her. This girl makes me laugh and giggle and dance a little jig and make vodka martinis just to keep from reigning holy terror on anyone in the closest 5 feet. She is my kid. Oh - and by the way - she has Cerebral Palsy.
And that my friends, is Person First Language. You identify the PERSON as an individual before you reference what affects them. It is is key in influencing how people view themselves. Hell, it's key in influencing how YOU see THEM.
Ok - so off my soap box....I'm currently working on a video compilation of some kids who are pretty damn awesome....who by the way, also have special needs. I'll periodically post more vids and first person interviews of awesome people doing everyday things who by the way, ALSO have special needs. If you want to see people with special needs giving their diagnosis a big 'ol "F YOU!", check out #TWSWC. Then, go be awesome.
Are our playgrounds REALLY for ALL?
If you have kiddos, you've taken them to the playground at least ONCE in this lifetime. If your little is old enough you can let them run around freely, skipping and jumping and swinging and climbing and bouncing to their hearts content. But what do you do if your child can't even make it ONTO the playground? What if they can't access any of the equipment, can't reach the "accessible" play items, CAN'T.BE.A KID? What then?
Everyday, children with special needs all over the world are forced to accept the fact that the ONE thing that is INHERENT to being a kid - PLAYING - is a luxury they are not afforded. The majority of modern playgrounds are not set up for ALL children to independently enjoy - only children who are typically abled, or very slightly impaired. Is this fair? No, not at all, but it IS the case. Children in wheelchairs, children with walkers, children with gait trainers, children with crutches - if they are able to get onto the playground, their interaction is limited. It's hard to believe - I know. I never thought about it until I had a child with special needs. And let me tell ya, as a mama, it's one of the biggest frustrations, and deepest heartaches I have experienced. The undeniable joy of childhood play should be accessible for ALL children, but sadly, it is not.
Unsure of what it REALLY looks like? Here's a video with real children, and real parents, at a real playground in Tucson, AZ.