The Words Around Dwarfism

Words have power. They can build a person up, and they can also tear a person down. They can make a person walk away from a conversation feeling like they can take on the world, like nothing can stop them. They can also leave a person feeling vulnerable, attacked, upset, and angry.

More than ever, I realized this to be the case after I gave birth to my daughter Caroline. She was born with achondroplasia, which is the most common form of dwarfism. I guarantee I used words that I shouldn’t have before she came into our life. I also didn’t know that those words were wrong and could cause such pain.

To help our Rise family become more educated on what words are and aren’t appropriate to say with children with special needs, you will start seeing a recurring educational piece on this topic in our monthly e-newsletters.

Since this is also Dwarfism Awareness Month, these are some of the words you can learn about Caroline’s condition.

The Do’s and Don’ts for Dwarfism

Midget: This word is on the list of derogatory words and is considered a slur. The word was created as a label used to refer to people of short stature who were put on public display for curiosity and sport. The word should only be used for educational purposes such as this one.

Little Person: People with dwarfism prefer to be called a little person, an LP, or just by their name.

Dwarf: While I don’t personally use this word or care for it myself, there are people in the community that prefer this term when describing themselves and their condition.

Normal: While this is a very common word that people use to describe someone’s abilities or characteristics, it’s best not to use it when talking about anyone. It implies that a child with special needs isn’t “normal.” But what is normal? Incorrect examples: “My child is normal height” or “Her gross motor skills are normal.” Correct examples: “My child is average height” or “Her gross motor skills are typically developing.”

Remember: Words have power. Please be kind with how you use them.

If you are a parent who would like to educate our Rise family about your “do and do not words,” please reach out to me. We would love to feature you and your child in the newsletter.

Erin Bird
Caroline and Ellianna’s Mom

Rise Office