Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The language of love

(Image from Photobucket - cryingbabybrowneyes) 

What's in a name?

That which we call a rose

By any other name

Would smell as sweet”

- -Shakespeare

I disagree with the bard on this.

There is a lot in a name

For  words mean things

A rose called by some other name – would not be the same. 

For instance, if we started using the word “tomato”, instead of the word “rose

( just try it out for size, as in – “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 -  is deeply hurtful to our community. 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, are  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. 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 did – 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 aspect of language, is about the   words are we choose, when we speak of  our  children in their presence

I  think about the word – “disabled “–

I say it in my head- dis- abled 

While there is nothing inherently wrong with the tern , I much prefer person with disabilities 

But the word disabled? I 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

How  we look on them with adoration and  how 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

This post has been written by Floortime Lite Mama who blogs about her life and her adorable  6 year old child with autism here.



  1. I think about this stuff waaaaay too much as well.
    Sometimes I reckon it's not until you are deeply in love with someone that the world calls 'not normal' that you realise how cruel our language can be.

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