It sounds like you all learned a lot from Mrs. Tilma coming in to speak to you on Tuesday. Her examples of Apraxia were great and I can tell it made an impact on you. I love how you all are using Mrs. Tilma's description of Apraxia when speaking to the classes this week. It seems to be making an impact on your classmates as well. Many of them are asking questions about our peers.
There is one thing that I am noticing with your presentations this week that I totally forgot to teach you! Now is as good of time as ever, and we will discuss this on Tuesday before our birthday party. It's called using "person first" language. Most of you (remember, this is my fault! I have not taught you this yet!), when you are giving your presentations, are referring to our peers as "autistic kids". Out of respect for our peers and all people with autism, we should be referring to them as "kids with autism".
Think about it this way, if someone you knew had cancer, would you call them a "cancer kid" or "cancerous"? No! We would say he or she is a person with cancer. If you knew someone in a wheelchair, would it be appropriate or kind to call them the "wheelchair person"? No! The best way to say that is "the person in a wheelchair".
It's about respect. The cancer, the wheelchair, or the color of someone's skin does not define who that person is. What defines them is their personality. We definitely know this about our peers- they are so much more than autism! You are preaching this to your classmates this week, so lets live this in our everyday lives and in our conversations. Our peers are people with autism. They are not autism that happens to be a person. The fact that they happen to have autism should not define them as a person.
Read this short story here. I found it to be incredibly heartwarming and it gave me that "ah-ha!" moment about why "person first" language is important. Please respond to this article in a Google Doc. The questions that I want you to answer are under the "Homework" tab.
In thinking about the "person first" language, I find myself considering another thing that I hear so often in the Jenison Junior High hallways. Can you take a guess? No, not the swearing. Although, to me this is just as cringe-worthy as a swear word. I'm talking about the word "retard". What do you think about this word? Do you know the background?
The term "retard" comes from back when your parents and my parents were younger and people with disabilities were called "mentally retarded". From there, the word "retard" was taken out of context and was used as an insult for anyone who did not have a disability (a typical person), but was acting otherwise.
So, putting that in today's context that would be like calling one of your friends "autistic" because they were acting ridiculous. If that continued to occur and more people started to use it that way, then the word autistic would soon be tainted into being a totally different word- an insult. Do you see how quickly a word's true meaning can change? How would you feel if your friends started calling your typical classmates "autistic"?
Please read this blog post by a mother of a little girl who has cognitive impairments. I hope this article changes your thoughts and starts to make you cringe when you hear the word "retarded". I will be the first to admit that I used to use the word all.the.time. It was my go-to word for anything that I did not like. Then, while beginning my college education to become a Special Education teacher, one of my professors spent a whole class talking about "person first" language and the respect that we owe to people with disabilities- which includes not calling them, or anyone/thing else "retarded".
To close, please visit this website and just browse. No pressure to sign, I just want you to look around and decide for yourself what you think about the r-word (this is what I really call it! I hate to say it THAT much!).
I hope this post gave you something to think about today. After-all, if we are going to advocate for our peers as you all are doing this week by presenting in the classes, then we need to make sure we look at ourselves and our behaviors. We want our "talk" to line up with how we live our lives.
My goal for you this week: Live your "talk".