I hear administrators, and behavioral professionals mandate person first language but freely mock students in front of peers and teachers.
I am sick of it. Words matter.
This is how a lot of teachers in both general education and special education classrooms “communicate” with their students. Snide remarks abound. Direct answers are not provided to direct questions. Sarcasm from teachers is rampant, but the same behavior is not tolerated from students.
Sarcasm is never okay. When we are sarcastic with students it fits both the CDC definitions for relational and verbal bullying.
We are harming the child in front of their peers and we are intentionally denigrating them.
What is sad is that even the when teachers said no to using sarcasm, they managed to miss the point entirely. They avoid it because they may get in trouble or because famous education researchers like Robert Marzano are emphatic in his appeal to why sarcasm is never appropriate. It strikes me as puzzling that so many people defend using sarcasm in their day to day life as a form of humor, but then immediately turn and say it is never appropriate for a students to be sarcastic back to the teacher. It is a behavior that is a non-negotiable from students.
Person-first language is problematic:
“People-first” language is meant to divide, it is meant to demean, it is meant to dehumanize, it is meant to pathologize, and yet, it is meant, as I said before, to make its users feel good. In that way it is ultimately destructive because it covers up the crimes.
Only when people get to choose their own labels will we get anywhere toward building an equitable culture.
If we convert horrid prejudices into pleasant sounding phrases, we diffuse those prejudices as an issue.
I’m a disabled person, not a person with disabilities. Disabled is my identity.
Identity first language is common among social model self-advocates. When hanging out in social model, neurodiversity, and self-advocacy communities, identity first is a better default than person first. Every autistic and disabled person I know uses identity first language. The words autistic and disabled connect us with an identity and a community. They help us advocate for ourselves.
There’s a language gap between self-advocates and the institutions that claim to represent us. There’s a gap between parents and their #ActuallyAutistic and disabledkids. There’s a generational gap in the disability movement. This is confusing for those trying to be allies. The articles below offer perspective and advice on identity first and person first language from self-advocates. At the end, I collect tweets from autistic and disabled self-advocates in a Twitter moment. Witness and respect these perspectives.
Source: Identity First – Ryan Boren
This is autistic life in the person-first cultures of education:
We navigate systems stacked against us to get access to what amounts to dog training-that dog trainers know better than to use-and a segregated “special” track through our systems that pathologically pathologizes difference and fails to connect with the communities it helps marginalize.
The specialists that serve this “special” track aren’t so much specialized in the lives and needs of neurodivergent and disabled people (managing sensory overwhelm, avoiding meltdown and burnout, dealing with ableism, connecting with online communities, developing agency and voice through self-advocacy) as they are specialized in deficit and medical models that pathologize difference and identity.
We hear the “abuse them now to prepare them for later abuse” line regularly at school. It is used to justify bad practices not at all in touch with the “real world”.
More than a few teachers have notified me that by being sarcastic – particularly with autistic students – they are preparing the students for sarcastic people in the “real world” and these teachers ardently refuse to “coddle” these autistic kids because they demonstrate difficulty with recognizing or learning social cues.
“Coddle” suggests a lot about the people saying it. It suggests they don’t have a structural understanding of our society. It suggests their framing is deficit ideology and meritocracy myths. It suggests they’re out of touch with the workplace and the future of work.
They’re not interested in designing for real life. They’re not allies.
Compassion is not coddling, and sarcasm from teachers and therapists isn’t comedy.
There’s been a lot of talk, of late, about laughter. Laughter as power. Laughter as luxury. Laughter as empathy. Laughter as beauty. Laughter as philosophy. Laughter as complicity. Laughter as division. The current political moment has been in one way a lesson in how easily jokes can be weaponized: Jokes can win elections. Jokes can insist that, despite so much evidence to the contrary, lol nothing matters. Jokes can contribute to the post-truth logic of things. They can lighten and enlighten and complicate and delight; they can also mock and hate and lie and make the world objectively worse for the people living in it-and then, when questioned, respond with the only thing a joke knows how to say, in the end: “I was only kidding.”
“We can hear the spectacle of cruel laughter throughout the Trump era.”
Suddenly, even the most powerful people in society are forced to be fluent in the concerns of those with little power, if they want to hold on to the cultural relevance that thrust them into power in the first place. Being a comedian means having to say things that an audience finds funny; if an audience doesn’t find old, hackneyed, abusive jokes funny anymore, then that comedian has to do more work. And what we find is, the comedians with the most privilege resent having to keep working for a living. Wasn’t it good enough that they wrote that joke that some people found somewhat funny, some years ago? Why should they have to learn about current culture just to get paid to do comedy?
I’m autistic and a parent of autistic kids. April is a tough month for us and other #ActuallyAutistic people. Stereotypes, myths, and inspiration porn are everywhere. Before Lighting It Up Blue, sharing puzzle pieces, or promoting Autism Speaks at your school, read up on the myths and misinformation autistic people must confront every April.
Follow that up with information about autism from autistic people themselves.
Identity First is the language of self-advocacy, neurodiversity, and the social model of disability. It is the language of almost every autistic and disabled person I know. Bring IFL into our schools.
- Education, Neurodiversity, the Social Model of Disability, and Real Life
- Compassion is not coddling. Design for real life.
More on autism, neurodiversity, the social model of disability, and education:
- I’m Autistic. Here’s what I’d like you to know.
- Presume Competence: A Hippocratic Oath for Education
- Autistic Burnout: The Cost of Coping and Passing
- Autistic Empathy
- The Double Empathy Problem: Developing Empathy and Reciprocity in Neurotypical Adults
- Autistic Anxiety and the Ableism of Accommodation
- Neurodiversity and Unilateral Accommodationism
- Eye Contact and Neurodiversity
- Picking Floods, Picking Senses
- Navigating Autism Acceptance Month and Autism Myths
- The Gift: LD/ADHD Reframed
- Identity First
- Bring the backchannel forward. Written communication is the great social equalizer.
- Inspiration Porn, Growth Mindset, and Deficit Ideology
- Neurodiversity Library
- Interaction Badges
- Hidden Disability
- Ben Foss on Dyslexia and Shame
- Compassion is not coddling. Design for real life.
- The Many Forms of Difference
- Neurodiversity and Gender Non-conformity, Dysphoria and Fluidity
- Bathroom Bills, Neurodiversity, and Disability
- Neurodiversity and Cognition Representation
- Harm reduction, addiction, tough love, 12 steps, neurodiversity, and the troubled-teen industry
- Transitioning from invisible to visible disability
- Atypical and Autism Representation
- An Actually Autistic Review of “To Siri with Love”
- Designing for Inclusivity with the Social Model
- Classroom UX: Bring Your Own Comfort, Bring Your Own Device, Design Your Own Context
- The Segregation of Special