In retarded” and “dumb” were used to speak about

In the special education field today, professionals take great care in using specific and optimistic language. Although this may seem tedious and unnecessary upon first glance, it becomes clear that the words we stay, and the stresses we use, have an impact. Today, we stress that the student should come before the disability (child with learning disabilities) as a way to remind ourselves and each other that these students are not defined by their disability. They are a whole, individual person who has a disability. There is a history of using derogatory, sometimes insulting terms, however, to classify students with disabilities. When Jean Itard first began work geared towards children with special needs, these children were known as “insane” people. Over 100 years later, although new categories and classifications were discovered and developed to better understand the different types of needs, terms such as “mentally retarded” and “dumb” were used to speak about people with learning disabilities and deaf-mute disabilities, respectively. These terms highlight the way society viewed disabilities, specifically throughout the 1900s, when more action was being taken in legislation, but the individualized view of students with disabilities was still lacking. Today, people overall have a better sense of how words and terminology can actually impact these students. By using specific categorizes of needs, and using terms such as “exceptional learners,” it enables special education to become normalized within society. There has been a shift away from grouping all students with special needs together and relying on stereotypes to define who they are. Deaf-mute, for example, is not synonymous with dumb, but rather people who require a different means of communication. Through the use of language, we are able to better express how students with disabilities operate, without forcing them into a box.