Tuesday, January 18, 2011

What's in a Word?

As an English major and teacher, language is important to me.  A word or phrase -- or the way something sounds in tone or style --  can have a major impact on a person's thoughts.

This isn't about being  "PC."  Politically correct means over-embellishing something to the point where it has no meaning, like calling a house cleaner an "environmental improvement engineer" (though my house could definitely use some environmental improvement!).

Rather, this is about helping people exist as fully part of the world in which they live by being truthful and accurate through the words we use.

Such is the case with words surrounding adoption and with people with special needs.  For example, I get annoyed with the "Adopt-a-" whatever programs, since highways and zoo animals are nothing like the commitment to adopt and parent a child for life. 

This didn't concern me too much until I adopted a child.  But  now it bothers me and my child by adoption.  For example, she once walked by a scenic area at a local garden that had an "adoption drive" and asked, "How can they adopt the ground?"  She is seven, but her logic shows.  A garden plot is nothing like a life.

These kids are happy to be siblings -- wonderful kids by adoption and birth. 

So I have made below a list of terminology related to adoption and people with special needs, gathered from my own experiences as well as sources (credited at the end).  This list is by no means exhaustive.  In fact, I welcome comments which add to the list! 

  • Natural child: any child who is not artificial. 
  • Real parent: any parent who is not imaginary. 
  • Your own child: any child who is not someone else’s child.
  • Adopted child: a natural child, with a real parent, who is all my own.
  •  "was adopted":  a child who, at one point, was adopted (versus "is adopted," as if the adoption is still ongoing)
  • Regular  or average child:  a child, just like any other, whether he or she presents a special need or was adopted
  • Typical child:  a child who is like many others but not all, who does not present an obvious special need (Note:  "typical" is the term often used to describe a person in the population who does not have a special need;  for example, I have two "typical" children and one child with special needs.)
  • "Person with ____" or "Child with _____":  a person  who is a person first, and who also has a particular condition or disorder.  (Note:  this means it is better to say, "child with autism" or "person with Down syndrome" versus "Down's person" or "autistic child." 
  • Down syndrome:  the common terminology for the medical condition known as Trisomy 21, first identified in England by a physician named John Langdon Down.  (Note that "syndrome" is not capitalized and "Down" is not possessive -- Dr. Down did not have the condition)
  • "Intercountry adoption" for an adoption from a country other than the one in which the adoptive parents live
  • "Domestic adoption" describes the adoption of a child who resides in the same country as the adoptive parents

So...any other suggestions? Love to hear them (remember, positive words carry more impact).

Let's all look out for each other and support each other in our words and deeds.

Many thanks to Perspectives Press and Growth charts for positive language suggestions.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for comment!You have sooo sweet and cute kids!I`m happy to know when any child with special needs finds a family.Yes,i will be happy to get any your help with Google translator!I know it translate not real good.We do not know other translators. :)))