Language is a critical component of disability etiquette and awareness.

Many of you have heard me speak about how language is a critical component of disability etiquette and awareness, from the use of person first language, to the appropriateness of referring to someone with a disability as being disabled versus having special needs. I often explain how adults who have a disability prefer to be referred to as such but that folks who are parents of children (typically minor children) with disabilities typically prefer referring to their children as having special needs. In fact, the children, when old enough, also typically refer to themselves as having special needs. The use of “Special Needs” begins at the earliest of ages, beginning in early intervention and continuing through the school years (K-12). At some point, when the child is ready, they make the transition from referring to themselves as having special needs to having a disability (often as they approach adulthood). I write today because this transition happened in my own home this week at the dinner table. My eighteen year old who began college this fall was telling us about a new friend and described it this way, “Though I have other issues too, Linda has a learning disability just like me”. A parent who has a child with special needs often looks for developmental milestones in very different ways and at different times than a parent whose child does not have a disability. This was one of those milestones that when she was born, I never wished for but at the dinner table this week, made me very proud.