Speak with Care: It Can Make All the Difference in Someone's Life

I was driving to work the other day and overheard someone on the radio say that so and so has an "Autistic Child." I immediately was time-warped back into a Master's class I took about children diagnosed with autism. In this class we were taught how labeling can negatively affect a child and the way they are treated or perceived by others.  Our professor was adamant in making sure we understood the correct way to describe an individual who has been diagnosed with special needs.  

Common phrase: "Billy is Autistic."

It's a very simple rule and easy to implement: A special need is diagnosed by doctors.  It's not who an Individual is. So,the individual always comes first and never IS the special need.

Doesn't this sound better?: "Billy has been diagnosed with Autism."

Why? Because then the focus is on the person and not what they have been diagnosed with.  It's giving them the chance to be who they are and allows others to focus on the person and not the diagnosis.  Think about in the long term, if little Billy grew up hearing all these people describing him as the Autistic child.  In a society that already puts tons of pressure on our kids to be "normal", he would feel even further from accepted and understood. 

If this child is yours, which way would you want someone to describe them?

I could continue to go on and on about this subject, but honestly, I think you get it.  Describing someone by their special need is insulting and demoralizing and it's time we take an extra second to think before we speak.

Just like I was unaware of this difference, I assume many others are too.  I doubt anyone who speaks this way really means to be offensive.  As my professor opened my eyes to this, I hope I have opened some of yours.