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Every Body's Different: Talking About Special Schoolmates

by Carol Stock Kranowitz
November/December 1992
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Article Link: https://www.childcareexchange.com/article/every-bodys-different-talking-about-special-schoolmates/5008829/

Words make a difference when we talk about people with differences. How we speak reflects how we think of them - a matter of great importance.

Mainstreaming is the term used for integrating children with physical, mental, or emotional difficulties into regular classrooms. As mainstreaming becomes more common, questions arise as to what words are appropriate to describe these children. Words like handicapped, disabled, or disadvantaged are insensitive, offensive, and negative. To refer more positively to mainstreamed children, educators speak of children with special needs. Another term gaining acceptance is the physically challenged.

In 1990, the National Christina Foundation sponsored a contest to find a new term to emphasize people's able qualities. The contest elicited more than 80,000 entries which were judged with the help of The Johns Hopkins University. The contest winner, Mr. B. Freer Freeman of Arlington, Virginia, suggested the expression people with differing abilities, to be included in a future edition of American Heritage Dictionary.

As children with differing abilities interact, how do parents answer inevitable questions about other children's conditions? Your naturally inquisitive child may ask, "What's wrong with Bobby?" Answer factually: "Bobby has a condition called cerebral palsy. ...

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