By Kinera Foundation
You may have heard of people-first language, but what exactly does it mean? In the Macmillan online dictionary, people-first language or person-first language is “language about disability that deliberately puts the person first before the disability.” Wikipedia states that “people-first language (PFL), also called person-first language (PFL), is a type of linguistic prescription which puts a person before a diagnosis, describing what a person has rather than asserting what a person is” and it goes on to say that it is a “type of disability etiquette.” Easy enough, right? Yet there still seems to be confusion about how to describe a person’s disability while remaining compassionate and respectful to the person. And this seems to be prevalent when adults talk about or refer to a child with a disability. So, let’s take a closer look.
Why is people-first language important?
How we address someone—anyone, and everyone—is important because it affects the way that person feels. How we talk and write about someone influences the image we form about the individual, which in turn leaves behind an impression, either positive or negative, for others. This is why it is so important to put an individual first before his or her disability. It also stresses that each individual has equal value, and that no one person or child is better than another. By using people-first language we avoid isolating an individual. When people-first language isn’t used and the emphasis is placed on an individual’s cognitive, emotional, learning, physical or other difference, the individual may not feel accepted or included, which doesn’t support community-building efforts or inclusion.
Why use people-first language?
Just like the term applies, people-first language refers to an individual first and the disability second. So instead of saying a “Down’s child”, the most respectful way to describe a child’s diagnosis or disability (or any other descriptive trait) is to say “a child with Down syndrome.” A child’s disability is something he or she has, not who he or she is. This is so important for children to ensure the development of a positive, healthy self-image. The emphasis should always be on the person first because the disability should not define the individual. And by using people-first language, we avoid making generalizations and perpetuating stereotypes. This helps to create a compassionate and empathy-rich environment for our children to learn and develop in.
We all play a role in changing the language used to describe children with disabilities and differences. Remember: each and every child is a unique individual; every child is a child first—those without a disability and those with a disability. And when we collectively use people-first language, we are then moving toward creating an inclusive world for all!
Here are some helpful examples of people-first language:
She has Down Syndrome.
He is a child with a seizure disorder.
She uses a mobility chair or wheelchair.
He has an intellectual or developmental disability.
She has a visual impairment.
He has a hearing impairment.
Typical instead of saying “normal”
He has quadriplegia (not he is a quadriplegic).
People with disabilities.
People without disabilities.
Person who is unable to speak/person who uses a communication device
Students who receives special education services.
Accessible parking (not handicapped parking)
Playing outdoors is fun and important for children’s development and growth. Children use their senses to interpret the world around them. While outdoors, children are exposed to a calm and sensory-rich environment. Playing outdoors provides many benefits to children, including directly impacting the development of both fine and gross motor skills. Plus, outdoor play offers opportunities for much needed breaks from screens and blue light exposure—from computers, cell phones, pads/tablets and television.
“Hands-on play in the natural environment stimulate children’s senses through what they hear, touch, see and feel,” says Stacy Ringold, occupational therapist at Kinera Foundation, a local nonprofit in Queen Anne’s County that serves families with children who have disabilities and special needs. “By touching materials in nature, such as grass, leaves, sand and water, children enhance their tactile experiences. And, playing outdoors can help children feel calm and less overwhelmed, which may help with focus in the classroom school setting.”
According to the National Association of Early Childhood Specialists in State Departments of Education (NAECS-SDE), a child who plays and takes breaks outside is more likely to feel happy and less anxious, depressed and stressed. This correlates to students who have increased focus and less behavior problems in the classroom, and may help children diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimates from 2016 show that approximately 9.4% of children between 2-17 years of age were diagnosed with ADHD. Current treatments for ADHD include pharmacological and behavioral interventions, such as stimulant medications and therapies that address problem behaviors. Data from studies in 2011 show that participation in activities in open, outdoor environments can improve symptoms of ADHD, and positively impact a child’s memory, critical thinking skills and ability to learn.
“Outdoor play offers many cognitive benefits,” explained Ringold. “When children use their whole body by climbing, jumping and running they develop gross motor skills, build their strength, and increase balance and coordination. And when children explore nature by picking up flowers and rocks, they are helping to develop their fine motor skills—all of which impacts the ability of how they process and remember information.”
Playing outdoors provides so many benefits for children—from decreasing stress, increasing focus, to developing fine and gross motor skills, just to offer a few! Time spent outdoors encourages a healthy lifestyle, helping children form healthy habits for a lifetime. So, what are you waiting for? Go out and play!
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The Kinera Foundation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization committed to enhancing the quality of life for children, teens and adults with special needs and their families by providing parent support groups, social activities and events, access to therapies and treatments, while continuing to support inclusive and community programs. The Kinera Foundation Eastern Shore Regional Hub, with partners that include the Office of Genetics and People with Special Health Care Needs and Kennedy Krieger’s Maryland Center for Developmental Disabilities, provides a centralized, coordinated Hub of patient/family centered care. The Hub brings together providers, therapists, families and supporting agencies to ensure Children with Special Health Care Needs (CSHCN) have access to the level of care, services and resources they need. For more information visit www.kinera.org.
“Don’t compare your child to others. There’s no comparison between the sun and the moon. They shine when it’s their time.”
Even before your birth on June 27th, 2018, I have always known that this motherhood journey would be new one for me. Same milestones; just a different pace. Pretty simple concept, right? Wanting to be as honest as possible, there have certainly been times I have fought the urge to compare our journey with those of other children the same age as you. It doesn’t happen often or even last long but much like a bubble at the bottom of the ocean floor, a feeling of envy will rise to the surface occasionally.
We live in a society of comparison. I try to avoid it, but it lurks in so many places. I see the posts on social media. Proud parents (myself included) sharing the highlight reel of their children’s lives - honor roll, amazing athlete, budding artist and “go-getters” getting it done. Trust me, I will be the first to drop a post that shares the achievements of my children. I am so very proud of all you in so many different ways.
Time with you seems a little slower. Slower than I have ever known as a mother; it's usually quite the opposite. I choose to believe this was intentional. I choose to believe it was to protect my heart from my very last baby growing up. Trust me, my heart aches daily with each passing minute with all my children. Oh Rowan, how I want to bottle you up and press pause, so I may visit the kisses and snuggles whenever I choose.
I have so many moments where I see the world around us and other children the same age doing things differently. Not better, just differently and how it affects the experience the parents have. Just the simple act of telling us you are hungry or that you want “more”. That you are thirsty or tired. Such simple communication, but some we have never heard... well, not yet ;) Truth me told, I would pay anything in the world to hear “Mama” and see you look into my eyes.
Lately these days feel a bit longer in the home. Milestones seem farther and farther apart than I have ever known previously. Yet at times (not as frequent) they appear out of nowhere and time then speeds up. I have learned to not anticipate anything but to lean into the wind and trust that you are doing things just as they are supposed happen. In Rowan’s time, not mine.
You see Rowan, this breathtaking journey is not for you to learn and grow - you will do that on your own and not even blink an eye. The journey of self-discovery is all mine. It is about letting go of MY past life experiences or how I would like things to be, and to simply accept things exactly as they are. Truly accepting it.
So Rowan please know when I watch you walk - I am PROUD. When I see you climb the stairs – I am PROUD. When I see you feed yourself or your baby doll – I am PROUD. When I hear you sing and dance to “Let It Go” – I am PROUD. When I feel your soft cherub arms wrap around my neck when I ask for a hug and kiss – oh girl, yeah I am PROUD. And I one thing that is certain of, is that one day you will look me square in the eyes and say “mama”. GAH! My only request of you, is not be alarmed when I burst into tears because I will have been waiting for this moment for so, so, so long.
Some of the simplest of things that other parents take for granted, I see you work so very hard for. You have taught me patience in a way I never knew I had and the ability to celebrate alllll the things like it’s my job. All of your achievements to date have made it worth the wait. I cannot wait for what the future has in store for you - learning to walk down the steps, drinking from a cup, putting on your shoes to one day being a great student, an athlete, an artist, or simply being just Rowan – just know I WILL BE PROUD. Always.
Simply thank you for choosing me. Be patient with me; for in the end all I want to do is make YOU proud. Until then my little moonbeam, just keep on shining.
With love from your biggest fan,
Kendra Eichler is first and foremost a mother to 5 and wife to her husband, Evan. She has found a balance of family, work and play. Kendra is also the Head Coach and Owner-Operator of Workout Like A Girl Fit Camps & Eastern Shore Performance Center in Stevensville, MD. Kendra has found her passion for motivating and inspiring others to improve themselves and their lifestyles. In doing so she has become one of the Eastern Shore’s leading health and wellness experts. Kendra launched her own company, Workout Like A Girl, LLC, with the goal of creating a fun and extremely challenging environment all the while educating her athletes on clean eating, mobility, flexibility and form. Every week she motivates hundreds athletes through social media as well as her highly successful Fit Camps by creating a perfect hybrid of functional training with athlete education. For over 6 years Kendra has been named the BEST Personal Trainer at a Private Studio by the Shore Update and What's Up Magazine Eastern Shore and the WLG Fit Camp earned 4 awards naming it the BEST of the BEST of the Eastern Shore for their program, including BEST Bootcamp and BEST Weight Loss Program. As a motivator and role model, Kendra has a unique connection with her athletes that stems from her own personal journey towards a fit and active lifestyle. She is excited about what the future has in store for her family and professional life!