Getting Started

Jane Hawes

Dear Columbus Parents

Last month, in our April issue, I asked readers to let us know what they think about the use of the term "special needs" when identifying children with unique medical and/or developmental challenges. We received some wonderful responses and here are excerpts from a few of them:

I read with great appreciation your "Letter from the Editor."I appreciate that you are sensitive to "labels" and that you thought it important enough to ask parents of children with special needs what our opinion is about the term "special needs"….

I believe the term "special needs" is the appropriate evolution of "disabled" and "handicapped."We now don't describe our children as handicapped or disabled, which is a good thing. Our children are children first and can do a lot of the things typical children can do, they just need extra time, help and some accommodations. In those situations, we have to be able to communicate to the person "taking the restaurant or hotel reservation" that our child has special needs.It simply paves the way for a smoother experience no matter what the experience we are about to enter is.In visual situations, most of the time, no words are needed as it is obvious that [my daughter] Maria, and others like her, is special.Most people are very kind and understanding.

-Joan Magnacca, Maria's Mom!


I think that it's fine using "Special needs" to help others understand without going thru my daughter's diagnoses….

My daughter is proud, beautiful and I stand with her no matter what the battle is or which accomplishment we are celebrating!

Thanks for making room for the special kiddos in the magazine.We need more awareness and support.

-Michelle Fenwick


As a social worker and a parent of a child with a developmental disability, I have no problem with people using the term special needs, as it encompasses a lot of individuals and a lot of needs.I think that if efforts are made to use person-first language, it is hard to go wrong.

-Renee Zerangue, LISW

Thank you so much to everyone who took the time to share their thoughts! And what a great reminder from Renee about "person-first language" - that's the presentation of an individual with a disability as, say, "a child who is deaf" rather than "a deaf child."

Truly there is no information more valuable and useful to us than the direct feedback of parents, and I hope that all our readers won't hesitate to email me ( with their opinions about all things family. We're in this parenting journey together!