HomelanguageTerminology: Why It Matters

Title image: A backdrop of books with the words "Terminology: Why it Matters" superimposed over themAlthough there are times when a concentration on terminology detracts from a conversation, the topic is still important.

IEP Meetings

In the LD community, there’s an ongoing struggle over using the word “dyslexia” during IEP meetings. Many districts don’t like using it, despite the student IS dyslexic. Why does it matter so much? Why does this particular term make so much difference?

Over the past decade or so, research has shown that specific teaching styles help dyslexics learn. By not specifying which LD is being addressed, the process is hampered. Services are already hard to get, so why not streamline the process a little?

This holds true for all kinds of LDs. Using the correct terminology makes it easier to find solutions.

Identity Terminology

This one is particularly tricky. I’d mentioned it in an earlier entry about language importance, but it fits here, too. The biggest argument around this area revolves around using the word “disability” as an identifier. Since I’ve written about that before, I’m going to talk about a different set of terms.

A while ago, I was sent an article about the difference between the words neurodiversity and neurodivergence.

It said everyone is in the neurodiversity category. Those of us who are wired differently are neurodivergent. That made sense to me, so I’ve changed my language. I don’t judge others for just sticking with the neurodiversity label.

It’s up to us to choose which language we identify with, but others’ choices should still be respected.

Social Change

The terminology we use is a big part of what creates social change.

The most common disability insult still used today is “retard”. This usage has forced a change in medical diagnosis, and encourages brutal abuse. If we don’t change the harmful ways we use disability terms, we send the change we work for back several steps.

This also applies to gender and race. Using “girl” or “Jew” as insults reinforces sexism and antisemitism. Words conjure images, after all. When those images are always negative, we treat people who match those descriptions poorly.

Although there may be bigger issues at hand than how words are used, our terminology is a part of the larger picture. It is something that needs to be discussed with different types of people.

Why not take a minute to think about how you use disability related terms?

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