Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Language of Love

I am on  the wonderful Hopeful Parents talking about the importance of the words we choose to use here

If you hate to click on links here is the post

The Language of Love

( image from photobucket by cryingbabybrowneyes)
What's in a name? that which we call a rose
      By any other name would smell as sweet”

I disagree with the bard on this.

For there is a lot in a name

Because words mean things

A rose called by some other name – would, in fact, not be the same. 
For instance, if we started using the word “tomato”, instead of the word “rose”

( just try it out for size  – “My husband gave me a  dozen tomatoes for our anniversary” – and you will know what I mean.

Even If you add the disclaimer – when I say “tomato”, I really mean “rose”)

Soon the way we experience the rose, will be imbued with tomato-feelings

For this reason,  I have simply loved the way in which the special needs community has united against using the R –word

( A brief explanation for readers who are not in the special needs community. The word “retarded”( which is thankfully slowly going out of business -  when used as an expletive,  is deeply hurtful to our community,  as it uses a diagnostic term for a disability,  as an insult. Plus the word is also used to deride kiddos with special needs. Same with phrases like “rides the short bus”. Very hurtful when your precious baby, in fact, rides that bus )

It really is wonderful that the special needs community has come together to ask for respect in the language that is spoken to us.

But I think there are two other places that we need to be very careful with language.

The first is the  words we use to ourselves to talk of our children .

Even the language of our inner dialogue

For instance, I never use the word “normal” to describe kids who don’t have special needs. 

Instead, I use the term “Neurotypical”( as in “Neurotypical kids  are so charming”).

When asked what this means – I will usually reply that neurotypical means “non-autistic kids” or “typically developing” kids.

I will carefully skirt around using the word “normal”

For if I used the word "normal" – I would by default  -be describing my child as abnormal.

And he is not.

He is just …..not-neurotypical.

But  the final and most important issue with  words are the ones we choose to describe our  children in their presence.

I  think about the word – “disabled “–

I say it in my head- dis- abled 

 While there is really nothing wrong with the word, iI imagine what it would be like, to have that as part of a vulnerable little child’s self concept from the very beginning.

Not good

Then I think about the word differently –abled

Well that  feels completely different

Its not about being PC.

Its about something infinitely  deeper

Its about self concept and identity

I think some of the  best gifts we can give our children are about how we make them feel about themselves

That we look on them with adoration and we speak of them in a language of love

Sometimes it is necessary
to reteach a thing its loveliness,
to put a hand on the  brow
of the flower
and retell it in words and in touch
it is lovely
until it flowers again from within, of self-blessing.

-Galway Kinnell


Bonsky said...

Brilliant as always.

Lizbeth said...

I first saw the word disabled on my son's IEP and was heart-sick and had the same thought, he's not disabled---just different. I articulated that and asked the word to be changed but they couldn't as they had to have appropriate wording for services. It made my stomach drop.

I try to avoid the word normal too as it implies that my son is not.

Anonymous said...

loved, as usual.

Yuji said...

You have a wonderful way with words! :)

I love how you conclude this... that "the best gifts we can give our children are about how we make them think about themselves"

...I know that one day my son may ask what is autism, and I will need to be ready with the right words, so that he will feel our love.

Megan (Best of Fates) said...

A beautiful point.

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Anonymous said...

You explain the importance of the words we use so eloquently. I hope positive words become the norm as our children growup.

danette said...

love this post, words do have meaning and the words our children hear about themselves will play a big role as they form their own self-image.

the dozen tomatoes comment made me laugh, great example :).

AutismWonderland said...

Absolutely beautiful & so true!

Kris said...

I absolutely love this post and hate the words "retard" and "retarded". With 2 middle schoolers it is a word I hear among their friends. My kids know they are not allowed to use it and that I would rather they use a true swear word than the R word because a word like s*ithead does not single out any particular group. Not saying I allow that word either but just saying I actually prefer it to "retard" because that word is so hurtful.

Rachel said...

Somehow you manage to express these things far more eloquently than anyone I know... even those who experience it on a firsthand basis.

While I felt the pain and rejection of being called "retard", and pointed and jeered at "duh, deaf! you ride the little school bus, ha ha!" - I know that it is worse pain to see this from a parent's vantage.

And it's now been a year or so - that I've started using "neurotypical" instead of "normal" - and it wasn't because you said to. It was your example.

Thank you K.

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