June 11, 2011

people first

"the difference between
the right word
and the almost right word
is the difference between lightning
and the lightning bug"
-Mark Twain

before I headed south (though not as far this time), I had a section of my pediatrics clerkship focused on Family Centered Care. This included a lecture on children with disabilities and how providing good health care for kids means understanding the impact on (and of) the whole family. We also were each assigned to meet with a family of a child with a serious medical problem in their home.

In the lecture, we talked about People First Language, which is appealing to me because my mom has talked about it for my whole life, and also because it stresses the power of words.

What IS people first language, you ask?
it's saying "people with disabilities" instead of "the disabled"
or saying "she has autism" instead of "she's autistic"
or "he uses a wheelchair" instead of "he's wheelchair-bound"
or "she has a learning disability" versus "she's learning disabled"

the former all remind you that you're talking to/about a human being, not a broken toy.

My visit with the family to which I was assigned was amazing. They live right down the street from where I am staying these next few months and welcomed me right into their home. As the mother, let's call her Hannah, introduced herself, two children (age 3 and 1) tore through the living room screaming at the top of their lungs. It took me a little while to figure out which child had the disease, they were both so happy, so eager to have my attention, so active.

fast forward 2.5 hours later - Hannah and I are sitting on her living room couch. She's crying but smiling, her husband is putting her kids to bed, I'm apologizing for staying so long, and she says, no, thank you. this was like the therapy I never had.

I'm going to check in with them in a few weeks after their daughter has surgery. It makes me wish I was hanging around more - all the relationships I could form in this community, if only I could stay in one place long enough to actually form bonds with other people.
*le sigh*

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