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  • Writer's pictureChristine McCarty


Truth be told, this was not my intended blog post this week. It was going to be about Addy’s world, which we will share in due time. However, a dear friend reached out asking for guidance around celebrating and bringing awareness to the special needs community. She asked for my thoughts but also for advice on a very important topic we often overlook – appropriate terms and language when speaking to or communicating with the special needs community.

It struck me! I can remember sitting at an IEP meeting years ago about Addy and using the word “normal”. The administrator stated, “who’s normal?”! I thought to myself, I’m certainly not!

So, what are the appropriate terms to use? Listed below are some of the terms/references I feel comfortable using and why. I know some may not agree with me and that’s ok! These are what work for us and our journey.

Special needs

Any physical, emotional, behavioral or learning impairment/disability that causes an individual to require additional or specialized services and/or accommodations (e.g., in education or recreation). I frequently will refer to Addy as “special needs” as a heads-up in the case I need something additional that might not be required for neurotypical children.


A term that’s used to describe individuals with typical neurological development or functioning of the brain. I like using “neurotypical” as it helps make the neurodivergent or neurodiverse terms easier to understand. See below.

Neurodivergent or Neurodiverse

These are both nonmedical terms that describe people whose brain develops or works differently. Neurodivergent or neurodiverse people have different strengths and struggles from those who experience typical brain development. I like these terms as they promote acceptance and help bring awareness to the diversity of neurodiverse people (e.g. they may go about things differently than what society deems typical).

Why talk about all of this? Well, the spoken word has power. Like my friend (and I applaud her foresight to reach out), we don’t want to offend or exclude anyone. So, from a special needs mom, just ask…

Lastly, thank you, my dear friend, for reaching out and asking our opinion. That meant more to me than you will ever know!

Much love,

Raising Addy

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