Yesterday was a day of awareness about respecting kids and adults with intellectual disability by not using a word that perpetuates crappy stereotypes. Today is a day of awareness, too. And so is tomorrow. And the day after. And the day after that. It's part of the gig of raising a kid with special needs: raising respect for them.
Asking people to use non-derogatory language is one way to promote respect; encouraging respectful behavior, attitudes and actions are others. So what does that mean, exactly? I threw out the question on Facebook and Twitter. Check out the responses that came in from parents of kids with special needs, people with disabilities and people who generally care—then add your own.
Respecting kids and adults with disabilities means...
"Seeing the disability as an integral part, but only one part, of a human being."
"Presuming that we understand."
"Finding common ground."
"Treating them the same as you would anyone else! I hate when people act like they're walking on eggshells around my daughter because of her disability. She's just like any other 2-year-old in most ways!"
"Realizing they have a voice, even if it's not a verbal voice."
"Realizing that even though they may not be able to communicate in a typical way they definitely still have a wide range of feelings and emotions and want to be heard and understood."
"Teaching your children that different is OK."
"Seeing strengths instead of just limitations."
"Speaking to them, not about them."
"Believing in their potential to learn."
"Not pitying them."
"Treating them as you would want to be treated."
"Respecting, not judging. We all have a voice. We are all differently ABLED."
"Not limiting them to a diagnosis—instead, giving them the tools and support to reach their highest potential."
"Asking questions—don't just stare! I may walk a little differently but I'm not an animal at the zoo! I'd be more than happy to tell ya a little more about CP."
"Caring enough to educate ourselves about what disabilities are."
"Not making any assumptions."
"Understanding that it is our differences that make us individuals and make life interesting!"
"Listening to them. Waiting and not finishing sentences for them."
"Not identifying anyone by their diagnosis—i.e., not saying 'a bipolar' or 'a schizophrenic' or 'a quadriplegic' etc."
"Fostering their independence as much as possible."
"Not taking up the handicap hashmark spot with your motorcycle!!! Drives me nuts! How the HECK am I suppose to get my son out of my vehicle without knocking your BIKE over???"
"Talking to them like they are important and their opinion matters."
"Seeing their humanity, not their disability, first."
"Allowing your children to be curious and ask questions. Ignorance doesn't allow for acceptance."
"Patience. Have lots of patience. Especially when we check out at a store. Why is everyone in such a rush?"
"Celebrating that we all have something special to offer this world."
"Equal opportunities, integration, communication, awareness, understanding and necessary supports."
"Accepting, not just tolerating."
"Teaching the next generation to respect kids and adults with disabilities, too."
Respecting kids and adults with disabilities also means...
"More to their mommies than you'll ever know!"
"More to the differently-abled population than anyone can imagine!"
"The world to those who love them."