As I am now approaching the end of my studies (just in case you’ve missed the previous 7 posts- get original Georgia) I find myself questioning occupational therapy practices more and more. I have certainly developed more of a ‘raised eyebrow’ as my lecturer would say. Yet, although it’s only natural to become more critical as you progress through the course, (it’s actually a course and professional requirement). My questions not only come from my experiences as a student they also come from my experiences of having a disability.
Before we go any further, I’m not trying to get myself struck off the register before I’m already on! This blog is based on a lot of the day-to-day interactions I have with my peers (online) and have gleaned from the empowered practice conversations.
It is well known that a core value of the occupational therapy profession is person-centred practice (yes, person-centred practice I hate the term client). In which I wholeheartedly believe in this and have reiterated this concept multiple times.
So, when the International Day of People with Disabilities came around last December I thought that I was on board with the name as ‘people’ came before ‘disabilities’. Yet as the day progressed, I found myself reading posts by well-known bloggers such as Gemma Turner (see post here)and Shona Cobb (see post here) that questioned my way of thinking.
In these posts, which you must read if you haven’t already, Gemma and Shona highlight the importance of disability first language because the phrase ‘people with disabilities’ implies that those ‘people’ have overcome and are separated from their disabilities.
After months of reflecting on this and quizzing my disabled peers (sorry), I have to say I agree with disability first language-not all the time I don’t want to be known as the ‘CP Girl’, but I do identify as a disabled person and I want to be referred to as a disabled person rather than a person with a disability. This is because like Gemma and Shona say my disability is part of me.
I’m not trying to overcome my disability; I’ll always try and look on the positive side. But I’m not denying that I’ve faced barriers in my life due to my CP, nor am I denying that they will be more barriers to face. I’m simply living with my disability and making sense of my life with my disability that is part of me, not beside me, I can’t just pick it up and put it down whenever I feel like it- it’s part of me.
Chloe Tear is another blogger that also articulates this point very well (see post here).
Not everyone will want to be referred to as a ‘person with a disability’ nor will everyone want to be referred to as a ‘disabled person’ and others may want to be referred to something completely different which is absolutely fine- it’s their right!
However, occupational therapy practice needs to be mindful of this; how can we deliver person-centred practice if we do not know how people identify?
Since co-hosting the empowered practice conversations last November, I seem to not only be questioning practice but questioning my own beliefs. Questioning practice can be quite mentally exhausting especially when it’s touching professional boundaries. What’s even more exhausting is questioning your own beliefs. Yet, without this inner critique, I will never enhance my future practice and become the occupational therapist I want to be.
When I set out to write this post, I aimed to address more than person-centred practice. But now, that I am touching 700 words and have rambled on for long enough, I think it’s time for me to go back to reflecting privately before I do more posts on this topic. So, I thought I’d leave it down to you…
What are your thoughts on this topic and how can we raise the profile of these issues within occupational therapy practice?
Thank you for taking your time to read my post!
P.S – I had already written this post when I was doing some work for my assignment and found this point highlighted in Chacala et al’s 2013 research.