Language is vitally important when it comes to communicating well. Sounds simple right? But when language relates to disability, there are many words which cause distress, negative bias, offence and a sense of hopelessness. Health professionals need to reframe the way they are presenting hard medical information, because too often it does so much damage in an already stressful and hard situation. Hard medical realities, need to be spoken about in a language that is open, that allows room for the human spirit, individuality, personality and hope, to remain intact. Words like, retarded, incompatible with life, malformed, abnormal, and even disabled, are all subtractive, negative and even socially unacceptable. I believe there is a better way to present hard information, where all the facts are presented about the condition, but the identity, abilities and value of the person remains the focus.
I spoke at an amazing event last week, Don't Forget The Bubbles inaugural conference in Brisbane. Sounds intriguing eh.. here's the blurb about it.......
'DFTB17 is a brand new acute paediatric conference, which will run in Brisbane for its inaugural year. It will cover cutting-edge research and insight into paediatric care.'
DFTB17 is run by the team at DontForgetTheBubbles.com, an award-winning and internationally recognised online resource that specialises in providing up-to-date medical education to the entire spectrum of clinicians caring for children. With a diverse audience from quaternary centre paediatricians to rural GPs, Don’t Forget The Bubbles provides a wealth of quality information for all-comers.
With the overarching theme of “Making a Difference”, DFTB17 will consist of three days of conference sessions, a Welcome Reception held on Monday 28 August 2017 and a Party on Tuesday 29 August 2017.......... in other words, a totally rad 3 days!
So, there I was, on stage in front of 420 Paediatric medical professionals. It was run a whole lot like a TED talk, the stage was cosy and it was professionally filmed, so you'll see a link here soon.
The response to my simple message was overwhelming,
which gives me such great hope in the future of our health system. Compassionate Care, Patient Centred Care, Open Hearted Language.... these are all major movements in the world right now and it is SO awesome to see the ripple of influence and effects of compassion.
"....The words we currently use, maybe mostly because of the medical profession, to describe disability are, retarded, incompatible with life, abnormal, disabled. These are words that are very negative and culturally insensitive.
In our current culture sadly our first thoughts that come to mind when we see or meet someone who looks different to us, is ‘whats wrong’. These words take potential, and even ability away.
What we associate with the word disability actually shows up the deficits in our culture which does not accept, encourage, or celebrate humanity.
We are quick to place value judgements on a person, often before they are even born, before they have a chance to reveal their unique character, before they can enrich our own experience of life...."
This excerpt is part of a presentation called Life, Love and Awesomeness- the impact and implications of the language used at diagnosis and about disability. This talk was presented at the Australasian Sonographers Association's international conference in Brisbane.