Getting Real With Shadra Bruce

There is a lot of fuss concerning the politically correct terms for individuals with disabilities. Not so long ago the term “mentally retarded” was appropriate, which was exchanged for “intellectually disabled”, which is now transforming into “exceptional.” The goal is to banish the stigma towards people like our son Kyle, who has Down syndrome. It is a pleasant aspiration, but what is it truly accomplishing?

“Exceptional” certainly has a positive connotation, while the previous terms have been received rather negatively. The thing is, I would consider all of my children – and yours – to be exceptional. Could this mean that they also each have special needs? Of course. When there is really no such thing as normal, it is impossible to define what is not normal, and that is all these terms are reaching for.

Kyle is indeed exceptional, but not because of his disability. He is exceptional because he loves unconditionally, and he is the happiest individual that our family will ever know. He is exceptional because he is kind, and he is exceptional because he considers the world to be a wonderful place. Some may think this is ignorance, but to others it is a gift.

We all have things we need help with and accommodations that we want made in our lives. There is such a struggle to find the right term for people who are different, without attaching stigma. Wouldn’t it be interesting if we just referred to each other for what we are? People. All exceptional in our own way.