People First!

Written by Carly Lowden

While you are reading HoPE, you may notice I say things like, “The child with HPE” or “The adult with HPE.” This may sound kind of wordy and repetitive, but there is a reason for it! You won’t hear me say, “The HPE girl” or “The HPE teenager.” Here’s why…

Have you ever heard someone say, “He’s an Autistic kid” or “You know, the Down Syndrome girl.” Or in the HPE community, you may hear, “The little HPE boy.” You may not realize it, but this is offensive to some people with special needs and their families. Some of you may be thinking, wait a minute- I have a child with HPE/special needs, and I don’t find this offensive. I didn’t even know there was anything wrong with it! Please, let me explain…

In the world of special needs, there is a phrase called, ‘People-first language.’ I was first introduced to this term, while pursuing my Bachelor’s Degree in Special Education. People-first language is exactly what the phrase says… putting people first! In this case, it’s putting the person with special needs first, with their disability second. When you say, “The Autistic kid” or “The HPE girl” it’s almost like you are dehumanizing that person, or defining them by their disability. This made sense to me as a teacher of children with special needs, and it makes perfect sense to me now, as a mother of a child with special needs!

From a personal perspective, when I introduce my daughter to someone new, I want them to see Abby. Not HPE Abby! Abby is a beautiful girl, just like all of the other children with or without HPE/special needs. This is how I want the world to see her! I don’t want the world to look at her and see her HPE. Yes, HPE is a part of Abby and that’s why we are all here, but she is a person, before her HPE!

So, there you have it… the explanation as to why I may come across as wordy when speaking of our kiddo’s with HPE, but there’s a good reason behind it! Please, keep this in consideration as you speak of people with disabilities. 🙂

3 Comments on “People First!”

  1. So glad you address this, Im very familiar with the people first language because I work at a state run facility for the special needs community. Before working here I was one of those ppl who referred to someone as “the fella with down syndrome”, and for those who are capable of understanding dont like to be referred to as such. So Im so glad that you took the time to address this!

  2. I agree with u completely. I want the world to see my little one for the person she is, not her medical diagnosis. It does make me feel more defensive when anyone tries label her. I stress to everyone to treat her like a person just like any normal child, not like a case study or whatever else these people think upthese days. Thank you for posting this, its relaxing to us parents.