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The Importance of Language

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I recently had the honor of attending the North Western Direct Support Professionals Conference held in Geneva, NY. It was the start of an amazing day and a day that made me really rethink my role as a direct support professional.

I attended a breakout session titled “Putting People First-The Language of our Work.” It was amazing to see how many agencies still used the “old” language! We also spoke about “community.” “I’m going out into the community. Do you want to take Joe out into the community?” Community has come to be seen as a place to go, not the neighborhood people live in; not the people they are involved with at church. One of the questions asked was “What would you call going to the mall?”

  • Going on an outing?
  • Going to an activity?
  • Going out into the community?
  • Going to the mall?
  • Many people said “Going out into the community.”

This stuck out because, to me, it changes the way we, and others, view the people we support. It almost seems like it makes them less. I would never call my friends and ask if they wanted to go out into the community, or on an activity. They would think I was seriously off the rails! I would ask them, “Hey, want to go to the mall?”

Even the use of the word “my”. “My guys, my residents, my house.” We don’t own these people and we certainly don’t own the house they live in!

This session made me really take a solid look at the language I use and ways that I can change it in my day to day interactions.

Jennifer Giblin is a direct support professional at Heritage Christian Services.