By: Julie Beem
The argument discussion rears its head every now and then, so I wasn’t surprised to see it come up again in an online group I belong to. Someone in the group took offense over others in the group referring to their children with Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) as “radishes” or “radlets”. Then others in the group took offense at being “shamed” because they were just referring casually to their children. And a war of words ensued.
Point 1. A lesson I learned early on as part of our Partners in Policymaking training as disabilities advocates is what’s referred to as People First language. It’s the concept that people are much more than their disabilities and shouldn’t be referred to by them. So we say things like “child with ADHD” or “person with cancer” – not “ADHDer” or “cancerous person”. Obviously calling someone a “radish” or even a “RAD kid” falls outside of People First language. Language is powerful and no one knows that better than a parent of a traumatized child who is trying to interject positives into their child’s negative world view. I have to admit that I bristle a bit inside if someone refers to me as “lefty” or worse yet, “southpaw” just because I’m a person who is left-handed. (And that’s not even a disability, despite what my 2nd grade teacher thought.)
Point 2. For those denouncing the parents talking about their dear little “radlets” on support groups, I offer this: It’s a SUPPORT group! Parenting children with attachment difficulties is exhausting work. Parents of typical children don’t understand; so those who find their ways to groups do so to be understood, not shamed/blamed. While venting isn’t the goal of a support group, it is often a necessary step for the parent to be able to offload the stress and hear advice. So, practice the other thing I learned in Partners in Policymaking – Community Building. If you disagree with someone, use “I” statements like “It makes me uncomfortable when people call their children Radishes because it makes them sound less human” instead of “You shouldn’t do that.” Most parents of traumatized children have already been told hundreds of things they’re doing wrong.
The whole point is this – words, once spoken or typed, cannot be taken back. Choose them carefully.