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Photo: Laura Popiel

Reshape your Thinking - Use Proper Terms

Most parents and children will forgive the use of improper words or terms when speaking to or about a special child. However, the use of proper or correct terminology is a huge plus when photographing children with special needs. A SKPA-trained photographer recently shared this with us, "When I asked the mother if Jared could 'transfer' she shared with me how impressed she was with my use of proper terminology."

  • CHILD FIRST - Always strive to place the child first in a sentence. For instance, say, "A child with autism" rather than, "An autistic child."
  • First of all, don't talk about a child when he or she is standing with a parent or any other person. Engage both, or at least direct your attention to both when speaking.
  • Don't YELL at a blind child or leave them out of the conversation as if he or she was not there. This is extremely rude. 
  • The same applies to a deaf child. Talking louder may or may not be helpful. Some children are hearing impaired, not totally deaf. However most can read lips or use ASL, so include them in the conversation too. 

Replace Offensive Terms with more sensitive expressions

  • AFFLICTED - Do not say, "The child is afflicted with cerebral palsy. Simply say, "The child has cerebral palsy."
  • AMBULATORY and NON-AMBULATORY - Able to walk and unable to walk.
  • CONFINED - Do not say, "Jason confined to a wheelchair." Say, "Jason uses a wheelchair."
  • CRIPPLED - Do not say, "Has Tim been crippled since first grade? " Say, "Has Tim been unable to walk since first grade?"
  • HAIR LIP - Do not say, "Tiffany has a hare lip." Say, "Tiffany has a cleft palate." 
  • HANDICAP - This word is becoming antiquated and can be offensive because it is associated with begging and the "hand in d' cap."
  • MONGOLOID - Do no say, "We have booked a mongoloid for next Monday. Say, "We have booked a child with Down syndrome for next Monday."
  • OTHERLY-ABLED - Some parents and others like to use this term instead of "disabled" but others think may be a little extreme.
  • PHOTOSHOP IT OUT - Do not say, "I can Photoshop that out for you." Say, "I can make some artistic corrections for you."
  • RETARDED - Do not say, "Is your son retarded?" Instead, choose terms such as "developmental delay," cognitive dysfunction" or other appropriate description.
  • SHOOT - Instead of saying, "Let's shoot Jeremy on Monday," it is better to say, "Let's photograph Jeremy on Monday,"
  • TRANSFER - Use "transfer" when speaking about removing a child from a wheelchair to conventional seating. 
  • TYPICAL CHILD - Use the phrase "typical child" instead of  "normal child" when referring to children who do not have special needs.
  • VERBAL or NON-VERBAL - Able to speak or unable to speak.

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