Abled, Disabled, or Differently Abled?

I have to admit, I came into the OT program thinking that I knew the “right” way, the “respectful” way to talk about people with disabilities. I would’ve cringed if I had read or heard the third sentence below; and likely rolled my eyes or fumed inside about inappropriate language.

“Nathan is a 5-year old boy with autism. He attends OT twice a week.”

“Nathan is an autistic boy who attends OT twice a week. He is 5 years old…”

“Nathan is a 5-year old boy who attends OT twice a week. He is differently abled.”

I had learned in one of my classes that person-first language is more respectful to our clients as it allows for the person to be defined by other factors (eg. age, interests, strengths) before being defined by their disability. It made sense. I internalized it. And I took it for granted.

Our professor instilled self-doubt on the first day of classes. She said that she would use person-first language …but that there was a heavy debate on the matter. She also made sure to point out how clients of this class introduced their disability and themselves. Some chose to point out several facts about themselves before bringing up their disability, and others laid out their disability right after their name.

My daughter doesn’t have ‘special’ needs. She’s disabled. This is an eye-opening article written by a mother of child with autism. In brief, the article makes a case for her child’s needs not being “special” at all and rather basic and ordinary. The mother also shares that autism has set her child’s life on a certain trajectory and has become an integral part of the child’s identity.

It seems that we are trending towards euphemisms to replace words we consider ugly…moving from “handicapped” to “disabled” to “with disability” to “differently abled”. But with time, the new words can also become somewhat ugly. (more…)

School Based Clinical Fieldwork in Ayukudi, India: Applying the Theory!

Sitara Khan seated with students of ASSA

As Occupational Therapy Masters students, we are required to complete 4 placements in a clinical setting, so when the opportunity to do one internationally arose, I couldn’t say no! Rural South India was a land as foreign to us as we imagined OT might be to it. To our amazement, in the little village with its limited resources and proportionally large population, an inspiring rehabilitation facility, spanning acres of land, had made its place. Amar Seva Sangam (ASSA), a non-profit organization catering to a lifespan of people with disabilities, with its early intervention center, special school, vocational training workshop and extensive spinal cord injury rehabilitation program, offered free services to its population.

Naturally, I worried about our interventions being culturally sensitive and our abilities matching the needs of the population, but I soon realized that the resemblances in the problems we faced, far exceeded the differences. Yes, the setting had fewer material resources than an equivalent center in Canada, but the lack of human resources was an issue that sounded all too familiar!

In our OCC1-617 class, we learned that very few OTs in Quebec practice in school-based settings. Often, a single OT is assigned to an entire school board, resulting in an area of great needs and no service providers. The same challenge presented itself at ASSA: the entire center relied on the services of a single part-time OT. Working at ASSA’s Special School, and quickly became aware that the needs exceeded what I could provide in my 2 month stage, but I wanted to make meaningful change. (more…)

Blog authors are solely responsible for the content of the blogs listed in the directory. Neither the content of these blogs, nor the links to other web sites, are screened, approved, reviewed or endorsed by McGill University. The text and other material on these blogs are the opinion of the specific author and are not statements of advice, opinion, or information of McGill.