2.2 Using appropriate words when talking about disabled children and their disability

The use of respectful words is not only important in class and in school but also in the community at large. It promotes the development of self-confidence and self-esteem, and allows the child to feel included in class and in the community. This also denotes the respect of human rights. Positive language helps the child to gain the right status by promoting a positive atmosphere, which is necessary for the acquisition of knowledge. For this to happen, both teachers and peers should banish negative-sounding words, including those that equate a disability to an illness. They must avoid nicknames and call all children by their own names. They need to avoid all words that may hurt, and adopt only positive or neutral words.

Activity 4: Avoiding words that hurt

In this activity teachers will create a list of appropriate terms to use to speak about disabilities and people with disabilities. It is suggested that they create a table to highlight terms to avoid and terms to use. This can be done as a poster or on a computer.

  • Using a large piece of paper, or on a computer with a word-processing programme, make two columns labelled ‘Avoid’ and ‘Say’. Then fill in both columns with words that you can think of to speak about disabilities and people with disabilities.
  • A few examples have been done already. Teachers should work together to think of more words that are commonly used and more appropriate alterntives.
This person is retarded. He is an imbecileA disabled person
The mongol personThis person is deaf
This person is affected by deafnessThis person has learning difficulties
A handicapped personThe person who uses a wheelchair
The person who is confined to a wheelchair The child who has Down's Syndrome

There is not an exhaustive list of respectful words to be adopted in class, at school, and in the community. Keep the table and

  • when you encounter new words that might help you to use a more inclusive language, add them to your list;
  • when you encounter words that might shock you, note them down too, and try to find more neutral expressions that are not hurtful.

The inclusive teacher strives to find the language that conveys respect to everyone and includes every child in the class. The aim is to provide an environment free from discrimination, frustration and anxiety.

The language used to talk about disabilities is ever changing. It is the teacher’s responsibility to be attentive to change and to adapt accordingly.

2.1 An inclusive teacher respects the individuality of each child

2.3 An inclusive teacher is aware of the different needs of pupils