Listen to the real experts- on language and labels
Like most teachers, I was trained that the appropriate way to describe a person with a disability is with person first language. Descriptors like a child with autism or a boy who is blind are commonly used by parents as well. The idea behind these types of descriptors is that being blind or having autism isn't what defines an individual. But what if an individual disagrees? As it turns out, many adults do disagree- adults who are blind or deaf, adults who are autistic, adults who are many things, including able to name and define themselves.
In the autistic community and many others, there is a push for identity first language. Identity first language is when someone describes themselves and their identity with the defining bit first. Autistic man or woman, autistic self advocate, or aspie kid are all examples of this.
Identity first language often makes neurotypical parents and teachers nervous. We may feel like we are insulting someone by putting the word autistic before the word person. We may feel nervous using identity first language because at some level we feel that its insulting to call someone autistic. And that nervousness and discomfort and idea are our problem, not the problem of people who have every right to define and describe themselves. Autistic isn't an insult, neither is blind or deaf, or a whole host of other words that neurotypical people are afraid to say out loud.
Nerotypicals have a responsibility to listen to our friends and families, partners and colleagues, kids and students, and honor their definition of themselves by using the language that is accurate to them. If its identity first language, we have to use it. Get comfortable with it. Practice at home in the bathroom mirror if you have to. Because this isn't our decision to make.
Learn more about identity first language from the real experts: