Call her diabetic
I am the parent of one young adult with autism and one pre-teen with Type 1 diabetes. That about sets the tone for this post. I hear a lot of language and names surrounding my children. Some of it is not pretty. I'll forego all the crap that gets tossed at kids with autism (look at me being all people - first in my language) and go straight to the kid with diabetes. Diabetic child. Child with diabetes. Oh hell.
My oldest daughter has had autism since age 2 1/2. She is 19 now. When she was younger, autism was not as prevalent as it is now. We knew hardly anyone who had autism, and no one who was a girl with autism. For most of her life, I referred to my daughter as having autism. And I bought person-first language hook, line and sinker. Refer to the person first, then the disability.
Until my daughter, that is, started telling me that she would like to be called autistic. As in, 'M is autistic.' I would put the words on cards in front of her. "Would you like us to say M has autism or M is autistic." And every time, she would indicate that she would like us to say that she is autistic. My daughter is verbal, and communicates her basic needs and wants. I presume competence with her and believe she has an inner life that is rich and varied, even if it is not outwardly communicated with others, or visual to others. She tells us what she would like us to say, because we asked her.
So, if that is true, why wouldn't it be true of my daughter with diabetes? What would Grace like to be called? How does she refer to herself, when asked? First, not all situations present themselves where she has to explain that she has diabetes. She's not constantly reminding people that she has Type 1 by her language. When asked, it turns out, Grace prefers to be called diabetic. Although, when I asked her again before writing this post, she said 'Exactly WHO would we be talking to???' which is exactly what Grace would say if you knew her. That's my girl. Like, Mom, who the heck are we telling and what do we care?
For me, and for Grace, it's about asking the person what they would like to be called. If you would like me to say you have diabetes, that's fine with me. If you want me to say you are diabetic, again, another win for us both. If you don't want me to say anything at all, rock on with your bad self. If you want me to call you a person with Type 1, then so be it. Let's start asking people what they would like to be called and we will all win.