April 7, 2022

How to be More Inclusive by Limiting the use of “Alphabet Soup”

Written by Lindsay Brillhart, parent and self-advocate

RL 2.8

Alphabet Soup is what we call industry-specific acronyms.  They are often used within an area, like disabilities, when talking with others in that same profession.  Usually, it is the first initial of each letter in a longer name of agencies, jobs, organizations, diagnoses, or things we often say.  It is titling that people use often in reference.  To make it easier and shorter when talking, people take the first letter of each word and just say those letters.

For example:

The Association for Successful Parenting = TASP
Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities = IDD
Protection and Advocacy = P&A

Sometimes in meetings, calls, or emails, professionals or parents use these acronyms and forget that other professionals or parents, may not know what they stand for.

I think that if people are going to use these acronyms, they could use them and then say what they mean.  For example, if I was talking to someone who hasn’t gotten services in their home, I could tell them to go to the county board of DDS. Or I could tell them to go to the county board of Developmental Disability Services. If I say the full name, it is clearer to that person what I am talking about.

As a person with a disability, some of the conversations I have with people use alphabet soup. A suggestion I have is if you’re writing something out maybe write the words out and then put the letters.  If you do that, then somebody looking at that knows what you mean. You could also put it at the bottom of the page, like a reference.  If you are talking to people, be careful not to use acronyms.  If you do, say what they stand for and what the abbreviation is so everyone can learn.

I often need to speak up in meetings and remind people to explain an abbreviation they just used.  It is okay to speak up if you don’t what is being said!  It can be hard at first, especially if you are shy or nervous, but people are also happy to have a reminder because many people slip in to using acronyms and don’t even realize it.  It can help them to remember not to use abbreviations, or to explain them when they do.  Most people are grateful for the reminder!

Here are some helpful websites that list common disability related “alphabet soup” phrases.  There are many more than what is on these lists, so don’t be afraid to ask:

About Lindsay Brillhart

Lindsay is a mom of 2 girls. She is a strong self-advocate for her kids and others. She has (formally) worked with the ARC of Hamilton County and Hamilton County Developmental Disability Services. She currently resides in Cincinnati with her her partner Phil and 2 kids: Julianna 20, and Sara, 11. She was once on the People First of Ohio board. She is a Partners in Policy graduate. She is also a graduate of PATHS (Providing Alternative Thinking Strategies).  In her spare time, she loves to travel and to meet new people.