Question: “Can you provide guidance on politically correct wording when referring to people or issues related to special needs?”
Don’t Say: special needs child
Do Say: child with special needs
Don’t Say: autistic child
Do Say: child with autism as an attribute
Don’t Say: Downs kid, Down syndrome child
Do Say: child with Down syndrome
Don’t Say: disabled person
Do Say: person with a disability, or differently abled
Don’t Say: mental retardation, or mentally retarded
Do Say: person with an intellectual disability
- Speak directly to the person with the disability, not to an interpreter or caregiver, even if the individual has limited communication skills.
- Do not force an individual to look you in the eye. Recognize that neurological disorders may make an individual uncomfortable with eye contact.
- Extend or refrain from physical touch and hugs the same as you would to a person who is the same age and without a disability.
- Ask before offering assistance.
For more on this topic, see this article from the General Board of Discipleship of the United Methodist church:
post Deleting the “R” Word.
– Jackie Mills-Fernald & Amy Fenton Lee
Jackie Mills-Fernald is the Director of McLean Bible Church’s Access Disability Ministry.
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