Political correctness is a tough subject for me. For many years, I couldn't have cared less.
Then I had a daughter with disabilities.
The first couple of times people would ask me what her condition was, I would tell them her diagnosis. They would correct what I said, using politically correct or “People First Language.” I didn't think a whole lot about it. But it kept happening, until I was no longer sure what words I should use to explain my own child’s disability.
Everyone has different opinions on how things should be said. You never know what is safe to say. Oddly enough, I didn't care what words people used to describe her so long as they were kind and respectful.
At one of our daughter’s ARD meetings, it was obvious that the school staff were very uncomfortable about something–they were all squirming in their seats. When they finally worked up the nerve to bring "it" up, it was nothing more than wanting to add the term “intellectual disability” to her file. I began to laugh. My daughter has severe cerebral palsy and was 10 at the time. Did they think they were the first people to use the term in relation to her?
I understand emotions run high for us as parents when we are talking about our children and how hard we work to get them equality, respect, and services. However, perhaps we should practice the same acceptance and tolerance we seek from others.
Often, it is in the intent that matters most. People don't mean anything cruel or ugly, and they may not know the “acceptable” language. If something said really bothers you, gently tell them you prefer for your child to be associated with a different term. Then please practice the acceptance you wish for your child.
We are all learning, and it shouldn't be so hard to be kind, and make allowances for those that simply do not know. These words, for better or worse, are part of our history.
Living with a child who has mental health issues can come with a lot of unknowns just like having a child with physical health issues. But society can treat both children very differently.
I have two boys. One is 10 and the other is 8. Both of my kids have disability labels. One has a physical disability and the other has emotional and behavioral issues. One disability you can see, the other you don’t – but it is there.