March 16, 2014 § 1 Comment
Today was an amazing day! I was able to meet with some amazing women about education and I also got to have the honor of the presence of one of their children. This person has the same disability as my daughter.
He is a grown man.
I loved talking to him and just being in his presence brought me joy. When it was time to say goodbye I made a horrible mistake and I’m not sure he noticed but I certainly did. I called him sweetie. The moment the word came out of my mouth I felt ashamed. I would not use that word with any other grown man whom I had just met.
There is a trend and clearly I was guilty of it today, for typical adults to use a voice which infantilizes people with disabilities. As much as I was guilty of it today it is something I am very aware of in my day to day life. I am very aware of it when others talk down to my daughter and I am very aware of my voice when I am working with students. Granted, I work with little kids so I do use word like sweetie a lot and it’s certainly part of my personality. I also often call my son and his friends, who are all teenagers and taller than me, kind word like honey and sweetie it just comes out. But I would never call a grown man I just ate lunch with sweetie – until today. And to this young man “I am sorry.”
Teachers – we need to watch our voice, our pitch and intonation when working with people with disabilities. It is a natural instinct to change your tone when you are with someone who is more vulnerable, but it needs to be something your monitor in yourself. It is patronizing to the individual when you do this. Yes, your intentions are good and your kindness is wonderful, but you can deliver those same things while using a voice and language that you would use for a typical person who is the same age.