A few months back I (along with our Executive Director, Alanna Hendren), had the pleasure of speaking with Tamara Taggart over lunch. Outside of Tamara’s busy personal life and work life, she is also a strong advocate for people with developmental disabilities and an active member and role model for our community. One of the key messages I remember Tamara sharing over lunch, was the importance of recognizing the appropriate vernacular. “It’s not a ‘Down syndrome child’,” Tamara said, “but a child with Down syndrome. In the same way, children with autism shouldn’t be labelled as an an ‘autistic child’, but a child with autism.” Tamara recognizes as a child first and foremost, and not by their disability. Similarly, people should be recognized as a person first and foremost, and not by their disability. I had honestly never considered the subtle differences between “autistic child” and “child with autism”, but it’s a good point to see the “child” before the syndrome. Children are children, people are people, and labels remain labels. Needless to say, lunch with Tamara and Alanna is always enlightening.
For more readings on this topic, there is a book by Ellen Notbohm that highlights the above, in addition to nine other points. The book is called Ten Things Every Child With Autism Wishes You Knew (click link for an excerpt).