On my way home from a recent presentation, my flight was delayed at a large airport. Then delayed again. Then delayed again. You know how it goes: everyone in the gate area is miserable, and misery loves company. So over the next few hours, I spent time talking with some of my fellow passengers. One of them was “Abby,” who was in her final year of dental school, and was completing her residency.

We chit-chatted about our travels and ourselves, and when Abby learned that my son, Benjamin, has cerebral palsy, she announced, “Oh, we recently had a Special Needs [dental] course and I learned all about CP kids.” Uh-oh. In a friendly way, I told her about the importance of using People First Language (and that it was started by people with disabilities), recommending that she say, for example, “children with cerebral palsy,” instead of “CP kids.” I also explained that the “special needs” descriptor, while commonly used, leads to low expectations, pity, segregation, and other negative consequences.

Abby looked somewhat bewildered; she apologized for “offending” me. I assured her that I didn’t feel offended, so no need to apologize. I added that I simply wanted to share the perspectives of people with disabilities with her in the hope the info would be helpful. “Yes, it is,” she said, “and I’m going to take this information back to school and share it with my professors and other students.” 
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Educated Ignorance

Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

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