‘I have a daughter with special needs. I don’t have a special needs kid.’: Mom advocates for inclusive language

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“Can we talk real quick about something?

There’s a huge difference between using someone’s diagnosis or disability to describe that person and using someone’s diagnosis or disabilities to define them.

Describing phrases:
The boy who uses a wheelchair.
The girl with special needs.
The person with autism.
The girl with Down syndrome.

Defining phrases:
The handicapped boy.
The special needs girl.
The autistic kid.
The Down syndrome girl.

Does that second list make you cringe? Me, too.

It’s important to use people-first language. It puts the PERSON before the disability and describes what the person has, not who the person is.

I have a daughter with Coffin-Siris Syndrome. I don’t have a Coffin-Siris Syndrome daughter.

I have a daughter with special needs. I don’t have a special needs kid.

There is so much more to Charley than just her diagnosis. It’s a part of her, but it does not define her.

Little girl with Coffin-Siris Syndrome smiles big while wearing a velvet red dress for a Christmas photoshoot
Courtesy of Madeline Webb

Charley is spunky, hilarious, and loves to smile and make people laugh. She can be sneaky and charming and she’s smarter than we give her credit for.

She loves fiercely and works really hard to do everything she is able to do. She inspires me daily and is a light and a blessing in this often dark world.”

Mom kisses her daughter with Coffin-Siris Syndrome on the cheek while enjoying a pool day in the summer
Courtesy of Madeline Webb
Young girl with Coffin-Siris Syndrome smiles big while wearing a cute rainbow matching set
Courtesy of Madeline Webb

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Madeline Webb of South Texas. You can follow her journey on Instagram and Facebook. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribeto our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

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