Inclusive Behavior, Not Words
I read a story about a preschool that banned the use of the term “best friend.” What they were trying to accomplish was to avoid having other children feel excluded. While the goal was commendable, the approach was questionable. At least one parent objected publicly to the new rule, stating that she wanted her daughter to be able to express her strong feelings for a friend. That’s a good point.
While this story appears to have nothing to do with autism, children with autism and their families certainly know a thing or two about feeling excluded. What struck me as questionable was the school’s focus on WORDS to avoid having children feel excluded. What would have been a better approach, in my humble opinion, would have been to focus on inclusive BEHAVIOR. Sadly, I have witnessed too many examples of organizations undertaking substantial efforts to ensure that the language they use is inclusive while failing to ensure that their conduct is equally welcoming. Sometimes, I feel that controlling and altering the “words” is worse than doing nothing at all. Why? Because it allows these organizations to “check off the box” and feel that they have fully addressed the issue. Let’s make sure to send the message that inclusive words are worthless without accompanying inclusive behavior.