Person First Language – Why does it matter?

In CategoryDown syndrome

If you had told me a couple years ago I would care so much about this I would have laughed.  Funny how having a kids with special needs can change you. My children are amazing wonderful people and I want them to be recognized for the amazing people they are.

When Froggie was 5 weeks old he was admitted to the hospital for RSV.  It was scary. During our week stay I heard him referred to several times as “the Down’s baby or the Down’s patient”. When I heard this my blood boiled.  It really bothered me.  But I did not say anything.  He was an inpatient and I needed the nurses and doctors to be easy to get along with since we were stuck there.  But every time I heard it I got upset. When he was discharged I did have a conversation with the hospital on the phone and they agreed to do some training with their staff on person first language.  For more on person first language please check out this link:

It does matter.  I want Froggie to be and feel valued.  I don’t want him or any of my kids dehumanized in any way.  I decided that I would not be quiet if someone referred to him (or anyone) this way in the future.

Well, today was that future!  Froggie had a procedure done today to check if he has something called Hirschsprung disease.  Fortunately he does NOT!  We were at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and the doctor came in room and asked the nurse “is he a Down’s baby”. You will be proud to know I immediately addressed it. I told her she should not call him a Down’s baby. His name is Froggie and he happens to have Down syndrome and not using people first language is a great way to offend people.  To my surprise she said I was right and apologized.

It does matter. Words can hurt. Not only can they hurt the person that is being discussed but when we put the disability first we are keeping old prejudices alive. This is not about being politically correct. This is about being respectful of people and showing that ALL people have value.  When you use person first language it can change the way people view a person and even the way that person may view themselves.

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