The intersection of People first language and neurodiversity, as explained through Pizza

People first or person first language is the idea that people should see the person first, not the disability. The disability should not be the sole focus of the person's interactions of other people, and it strives for people to be accepted. Neurodiversity is the concept that invisible and visible cognitive differences such as autism, are part of the human experience, and that such differences may require support, but not treatment or a cure. To cure the disability is to cure the person as well.


I am actually a venn diagram in many ways, in that my take on the disability experience fits right in between where people first and neurodiversity overlap. I believe both ideologies ultimately strive for the same thing: acceptance. To be embraced in their community. To put it simply, I want to live in a community where people see all the wonderful parts of me, and I want to also live in a world where I don't get stared at or told to leave for flapping my hands at the grocery store. I feel strongly that people shouldn't focus only on my disability, but to see only me without my disability would be inaccurate as well, because it is a part of me. It's a part of me and always will be, but it's not the only thing that's a part of me, my female identity is also a part of me, my college experience and black belt and friends and many other things are also a part of me. For years, I have felt that both can and should coexist for the disability experience, and both are good. But how to explain that?


I realized that I already have, in relation to my volunteer work. I am part of an organization that goes out and talks to children, through disability awareness. The children go and use wheelchairs, try out blind canes, learn to write in braille, and listen to several speakers tell their experience. I am one of the speakers, although I have also helped out in organizing the braille papers and setting up the wheelchairs as well.


Here's what I tell the kids at the end of my speech:


Close your eyes and think of a pizza. Now I have my taekwondo slice, my friends slice, my job slice, my slice that likes going to comic con and movies, and my family slice and my autism slice. If you only focus on the autism slice, you're missing all the other slices. So it's important when you see someone that may walk or speak differently than you, try to learn about all their slices, not just the disability slice, and try saying hi.


Now, if someone came up to me and said hey Jackie I found this awesome treatment and it'll take your autism slice away for free how does that sound? I would say no. That's because if you take that slice away, all these other awesome slices that I just told you about might go away too, and I won't be the same person anymore.


All this time, I was explaining my ideology perfectly, through pizza. The kids get it instantly, and I feel heard. Both schools of thought can and should coexist in the disability community.

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