Getting Started

Jane Hawes

Dear Columbus Parents,

I need your input. In every issue we publish, we make sure we address concerns that affect families whose children have developmental and/or medical disabilities.

These would include challenges regarding accessibility, sensory stimulation, learning needs, nutrition, finances and more.

And then every April now for the last four years, we up the ante a bit more, making sure we devote space to several bigger articles that address what have become known as "special needs" topics.

And therein lies what I need input about: The "special needs" term. Are you good with us using it?

Labels in and of themselves are a tricky matter. Society can and will use labels to discriminate, but I find that labels can also, when used with sensitivity and accuracy, be very helpful in "short-handing" a situation.

Want to make sure you get the information you need in a timely manner without having to divulge your child's entire medical history? Explain to the person taking the restaurant or hotel reservation that your child has "special needs."

Want to quickly find information online about a summer camp or school-year program? Use "special needs" as one of the search terms.

But occasionally I do hear from organizations or families who are not comfortable with the term, so I'm asking you, Columbus parents, are you OK with it? Or can you think of a better and more useful way to present this information so that the families who need it can find it most easily? Drop me an email at and share your thoughts on the matter.

In the meantime, I hope you get to read this issue enveloped by the warm sunshine of spring. It's been a rough winter, hasn't it? So get back out there, plant some green things and enjoy those families of yours!