My sister is a pretty amazing person.  Aekta is intellectually curious, spunky, a little sassy, super fun to be around, talkative, and the cutest little thing ever!  She’s one of those people you meet once and never forget.

She’s also beautiful!

More than anything though, she genuinely cares about people, and in her own special ways, she wants to leave this world a better place.  For example, after her freshman year of college, she opted to spend the summer in Wisconsin as a camp counselor for children with intellectual and physcial disabilities.  Not many 18 year olds would’ve spent their first summer vacation of college that way, but Aekta did.  And she still says that it was one of the best experiences of her life.  That’s my sister.  Pretty amazing.

Needless to say, that camp experience shaped her perspective going forward.  In fact, since that summer, Aekta has been on a personal crusade to help stop the use of the word ‘retard.’  To this day, if she hears someone use that word, she’ll stop and correct the person before letting him/her proceed.

Aekta helped spread the message through social media along with many others.

The other day, I got an email from Aek about a recent message she posted to her medical school class’ Facebook page.  She wanted to bring awareness to the issue of ‘choosing words carefully.’  Recently, she noticed that as they learned about things like intellectual disabilities, autism, fragile X, down syndrome, etc. even their professors were using the wrong language.

I want to share her message on the blog because it serves as a powerful reminder to think carefully about the phrases we use to describe people.  It definitely makes me evaluate my word choices a little more closely.

“Hey guys. I’ve been thinking about the use of the words mentally retarded, autistic, disabled, etc. after our lectures yesterday (my major involved working with people with different types of (dis)abilities). I thought I’d share an interesting tip on the power of words that my professors in college shared with us…

When referring to people “with disabilities”, it is better to say “person/people with….(insert autism, disability, hearing impairment, etc.) rather than using the word as an adjective to describe them (i.e. mentally retarded girl, autistic boy…). That unnecessarily emphasizes their disability more than the individual as a person. I wanted to share this tip I learned because I have heard it being said both ways and have noticed a big difference in the effect each version has. I think it’s good to think about things like this, especially as we take on more responsibility as professionals, because we won’t always know how our words affect others or their loved ones.”

Aekta, I am so proud of you for standing up for what you believe in.  Like I said in my reply to your email, I truly believe you make this world a better place.  Love you lots!

By Parita

11 thoughts on “Choosing Our Words a Little More Carefully”
  1. All I want you both sisters to know that I am so PROUD of you!!!!! My eyes got little wet when i read this post, ofcourse with PRIDE!!!

  2. I completely agree with your sister’s words here, and she sounds like an absolutely fabulous woman – just like you!

  3. Oh goodness Aekta sounds amazing and this post really struck a chord with me! Disabilities aside, it’s so easy to say something without thinking and make a huge impact on someone else (even though you might forget about within seconds)! Another thing which drives me crazy (and which I was guilty of doing so once upon a time) is describing events/situations/etc as “gay” when sexuality or happiness are not related.

    Thanks both of you for the reminder of thinking before we speak!

  4. Your sister sounds like such a beautiful woman! And I’m totally gushing over all of those things you said about her <3 I did a lot of work in the field of psychology, and I have the same problem with people using a mental disorder as an adjective to describe someone. Oh that guy's schizophrenic. Oh she's bipolar. No. Just no. He is a person who's suffering from schizophrenia. She's a person who's dealing with bipolar disorder. Not only are statements like that degrading, but they encourage the person to adopt their ailment as part of their identity to the point where they have a hard time separating themselves from it.

  5. Thanks so much for sharing this, Par!! I love that my words are able to spark a conversation outside of the people I interact with (aka your blog friends!) 😀

    And of course, thanks for the WHOLE blog post dedicated to me! I usually get excited when even one sentence in your post mentions my name – but a whole post this time!! I feel like a celebrity 😮

    Love you and miss you tons!!

  6. wow.. your sister sounds amazing.. you are right not too many people would do any good for mankind on their first college vacation. I read your mom’s comment, so sweet! I can see how she got emotional.. with pride. Definitely good to know, I”ll watch my words more closely.

  7. She sounds amazing and – oh my goodness – she is so beautiful! Your parents must be very proud of you both for all that you are. As my wife and I have worked with children with many forms of disabilities over the last 20 years, I am very grateful for the work anyone like Aekta does. To be so young and yet so caring for others is a wonderful thing. 🙂

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