Four SVSU occupational therapy (OT) students created a person-first language project to advocate for patients.
Occupational therapy is a health profession that helps individuals complete tasks they need in their everyday life.
The OT group believes person-first language is incredibly important for the patients. They need to be seen as a person. An example of this is saying ‘a child who has autism’ instead of saying ‘an autistic child.’ It focuses on the person themselves and puts the disease or illness second.
One requirement to graduate from the OT program is to create an advocacy involvement project. OT sophomore Miranda Oswald believed April was the perfect time to educate people on the importance of person-first language since it’s OT Month.
“People are unaware of the way that they refer to individuals who have a disability,” Oswald said. “Oftentimes, individuals and healthcare workers are not educated or aware about the use of first-person language and why it’s so important.”
The group’s goal is to spread awareness and educate others on the use of person-first language. They want to facilitate focusing
on the positive aspects of the person. They want to make sure people acknowledge them as a person first and not just their diagnosis.
“The use of person-first language gives others the chance to recognize that the child is a person first, not their disability,” Oswald said. “It has a lasting positive impact in ensuring that we as a society are accepting and recognizing that those who have a disability are most importantly a person.”
OT sophomore Amber Brown believes OT can help change people’s lives. She decided to go into the profession after realizing how important simple tasks were to her.
“I know how much it means to me to be able to do the things I love,” Brown said. “When I realized OT is all about finding different ways to help people do what they love, it was an easy decision for me.”
Master of OT student Kasey Flintoft hopes the one thing people will take away from this project is that their words and what they say has an impact.
“Our hope is that people will begin to recognize the impact of their words and will choose to utilize person-first language,” Flintoft said. “I hope they will tell others about it and what they have learned so that more of the world may recognize its impact and utilized its power.”