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Today I saw a tweet about this very group, I'm assuming in the hopes of getting more people to join the group and engage in discussion about students with autism.

But something bothered me immensely.

And, although I LOVE the shout out and am glad that this group is being supported, we were called...

"Educators of Autistic Students."

GASP.

I KNOW they are only words.  But the words matter.

Why not refer to our students as students WITH autism?

I would rather teach a boy.

I would rather teach a girl.

I would rather teach a child.

I would rather teach a person.

Instead of "that Downs boy" or "those autistic kids" or "you know, that little flapping autistic girl," couldn't we say "the boy with the big smile and huge heart that happens to have Down syndrome?

OR the girl with the beautiful brown curls that has autism?

OR the tall boy with the freckles in your class?

Because they are people FIRST.

They are children FIRST.

And maybe they are just words.

But words matter.



Resources:

Labels, Be Gone... http://mlkolis.blogspot.com/2010/07/labels-be-gone.html

Spread the Word to End the Word- http://www.r-word.org

People First Language- http://staff.bbhcsd.org/kolism/category/people-first-language/


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Replies to This Discussion

Yes! I so agree with you, I always try to remind myself that the children I teach may have something but they are not the child with just that. I know that I will have two students with autism this year and I look forward to learning from this group.
Really good point Morgan...

As an educator who has worked with children who have special needs for many years the thing that impresses me lately is that we use the word 'spectrum' just about autism....and not anything else? But I would venture to say that I have always seen a spectrum of abilities and need, they are all so different, whether they have dyslexia, central auditory processing delays, Downs syndrome, or Autism. Sure there are similarities, profound similarities in some cases...but Aha! there are differences...and those differences are what makes these children beautiful humans ... each with their own special gift and purpose. I believe we are all on 'that 'spectrum' of abilities...so you are 1,000,000% right... words matter... children with autism is one area on that spectrum, just like this 40-something year old lady who needs to lose 25 lbs is at another area of the spectrum. (I need some intervention too! :)

What you wrote above is a beautiful poem.. .I loved it.. and it was new to me.
Here is poem I have loved for years .. a classic .. which I had learned as a child...which can have many interpretations...a spectrum of interpretations... if you will :) Thanks for your inspirational post!

somewhere i have never traveled,gladly beyond
by E. E. Cummings

somewhere i have never traveled,gladly beyond
any experience,your eyes have their silence:
in your most frail gesture are things which enclose me,
or which i cannot touch because they are too near

your slightest look easily will unclose me
though i have closed myself as fingers,
you open always petal by petal myself as Spring opens
(touching skilfully,mysteriously)her first rose

or if your wish be to close me, i and
my life will shut very beautifully ,suddenly,
as when the heart of this flower imagines
the snow carefully everywhere descending;

nothing which we are to perceive in this world equals
the power of your intense fragility:whose texture
compels me with the color of its countries,
rendering death and forever with each breathing

(i do not know what it is about you that closes
and opens;only something in me understands
the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses)
nobody,not even the rain,has such small hands
Thanks for your reply Joyce.

And thank you for the poem. I've already read it over 3 times!
I understand and agree with 'People First" language for ALL people with disabilities. Have you ever heard Temple Grandin speak? She often talks about 'Autistics' leaving out the 'person' component. Personally, I always make a reference putting the disability last, but when my students do research on Autism, many of the highly-regarded sources phrase it the way Temple does. Does anyone know why this sensitivity doesn't seem to always apply to children with Autism?
Yes, I have also heard this. I have also heard some people with Asperger's call themselves "Aspies."

In my mind, the ONLY people who can/should refer to "autistics" or "aspies" as such, is those people who have autism or Asperger's.

That's just my opinion, but I feel that I don't have enough ownership to use those words.
And here's another opinion from the Washington Times- http://communities.washingtontimes.com/neighborhood/autism-unexpect...
Can't follow this link, can you recheck? I'd love to read it...

(fyi... This is a great discussion...I am making it mandatory reading for all the Autism Technology Consultants I have on staff at Monarch Teaching Technologies... thanks! J)
Hi Joyce,

Here's the link again- http://communities.washingtontimes.com/neighborhood/autism-unexpect...

If the link is broken, you could try to copy and paste it into the browser or...

Go to http://mlkolis.blogspot.com. This is my blog page and I have posted my same comments here as a blog. The link to this article works there.

Thanks for including me on something for Autism Tech Consultants. I actually feel pretty honored to hear that. Both special needs and technology are passions of mine (and Monarch is actually just a bit down the road from here...).

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