The emphasis on these specific groups should not overlook the realities that nationally more than 150,000 children less than five years of age have hearing and/or vision difficulties and 2.8 million older children have one or more disabilities.

We prefer to dichotomize things. Something is heavy or light. A person is tall or short. Someone is nice or not nice. Something is hot or cold – but is that according to Centigrade, Fahrenheit, Kelvin or some other celestial  measurement systems? Things tend to get fuzzy when we become more specific. How tall is tall? How nice is nice? And so forth… Similarly it is comforting when we simplify our relationships with others. We “know who we are.” It’s “them” who concern “us.” Now for each of “us” there are “thems” who may be very different from the “thems” of others. For example, consider family relationships.
• Things are great when races “A” marries “A” and “B” marries “B”. But what happens when “A”s marry “B”s? Now we have “A-B”s
• Now “A-B” marries either “A-B,” “A,” “B,” or “C” we get… you can see the complexities.
• Now add another group, “H” which uses another criterion (e.g. ethnicity) which includes all races. How does one “dichotomize” that situation?

Since 1989, the National Center for Health Statistics has tabulated birth data according to the mother’s race. “The racial and ethnic categories set forth in the standard should not be interpreted as being primarily biological or genetic in reference. Race and ethnicity may be thought of in terms of social and cultural characteristics as well as ancestry. The category which most closely reflects the individual’s recognition in his community should be used for purposes of reporting on persons who are of mixed racial and/or ethnic origins.”1 Now add the fact that each of us tends to interpret survey questions from their own perspective. For example, on St. Patrick’s Day, there are probably more people who claim Irish ancestry than whose particular ancestors could have stood shoulder-to-shoulder on the Island. Then there are the Italians, the Germans, and in Australia there are more claimed descendants of the original prison colony than could have reached those shores by the entire modern cruise fleet. In addition to all that, one of us (HBW) claims to be Bessarabian (now called Moldova) based upon his father’s birthplace.


The Census Bureau provides a veritable library of information on virtually all aspects of life in this country and many others. In the past, much of the data often were presented in terms of the “traditional” racial classifications (usually, white, black, sometimes Asian and ethnicity, i.e. Hispanic). Only in the 2000 and 2010 have classifications been broadened to take consideration of the “homogenization” of our increasing complex societies.

All too often, in our efforts to present the realities of the tens of millions of residents of all ages with disabilities, we emphasize national numbers and their impact on their families and the general society in such terms that are beyond the comprehension of most individuals; e.g. hundreds of millions and billions of dollars of costs just seem like the number of snowflakes in the middle of a storm to people who are clipping coupons to make ends meet.

To some degree we break these numbers down in terms of the traditional use of race/ethnicity partings. The availability of the “others” demographic data not only provides a more realistic picture of our contemporary society, but it gives us the opportunity to recognize that even among these smaller groupings there are youngsters (and the not so young) with disabilities. For example, nationally and in the three largest population states, there are thousands, tens of thousands and hundreds of thousands children with disabilities in one or more of the traditional and “other” categories. We can now review the number of youngsters with disabilities in the smallest population state (Wyoming, with a population of 563,000 in the last census3), including 4,230 white- non-Hispanic children, 270 youngsters of two or more races, and 800 Hispanic children. (see Table 1) Note: These data are available from the Census Bureau for the younger and older age groups, by state, county, cities, congressional districts and other local areas.

But the emphasis on these specific groups should not overlook the realties that nationally more than 150,000 children less than five years of age have hearing and/or vision difficulties and 2.8 million older children have one or more disabilities. (see Table 2) Note: These data (with increased types of disabilities) also are available from the Census Bureau for the younger and older age groups, by state, county, cities, congressional districts and other local areas.


The charge is to update and revitalize our understanding and appreciation of the new information about children with disabilities that has become available from the 2010 census. The “others” data (by congressional districts, cities, etc.) can be used to reach politicians at the federal, state and local levels as they themselves seek to come to terms with the evolving fabric of their constituencies. Take advantage of times? You’re darn right! •

H. Barry Waldman, DDS, MPH, PhD – Distinguished Teaching Professor, Department of General Dentistry at Stony Brook University, NY; E-mail: h.waldman@stonybrook.edu
Steven P. Perlman, DDS, MScD, DHL (Hon) is Global Clinical Director, Special Olympics, Special Smiles and Clinical Professor of Pediatric Dentistry, The Boston University Goldman School of Dental Medicine, Private pediatric dentistry practice – Lynn MA.
Matthew Cooke, DDS, MD, MPH is Associate Professor, Departments of Anesthesiology & Pediatric Dentistry University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine Pittsburgh PA; Assistant Clinical Professor, Departments of Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery and Pediatric Dentistry Virginia Commonwealth University School of Dentistry, Richmond, VA.

2The American Academy of Developmental Medicine and Dentistry (AADMD) was organized in 2002 to provide a forum for healthcare professionals who provide clinical care to people with neurodevelopmental disorders and intellectual disabilities (ND/ID). The mission of the organization is to improve the quality and assure the parity of healthcare for individuals with neurodevelopmental disorders and intellectual disabilities throughout the lifespan.

1. Answers.com How do you determine your race if your father is black and your mother is white?
Web site: http://wiki.answers.com/Q/How_do_you_determine_your_race_if_your_father_is_black_and_
2. Census Bureau. Disabilities. Web site: http://factfinder2.census.gov/faces/tableservices/jsf/pages/productview.
ges/index.xhtml. Accessed January 25, 2012.
3. Ranking of states. Web site: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_U.S._states_and_territories_by_population.
Accessed January 25, 2012.