When I was growing up, my parents were very clear in teaching me that all kids are special, no matter what they look like or how they act.

When I was growing up, my parents were very clear in teaching me that all kids are special, no matter what they look like or how they act. That's a difficult concept to learn as a kid, when anyone who doesn't look or act like you is typically labeled "different."

I teach the same tolerance lesson to my kids and I think their generation is even more aware and accepting of kids who are different from them. Several of my kids have been in classes with mentally- or physically-challenged children and have been hand-picked by their teachers to be mentors. I expected them to be a least a little bit put out with the extra responsibilities, but I was very happy to find they felt the opposite way--they were proud their teachers had this kind of faith in them.

My oldest son was diagnosed with insulin-dependent diabetes (also known as type 1 diabetes) when he was 13 months old. And although diabetes doesn't typically make a person appear different, my son has experienced being labeled an outsider by classmates. But because he's a tough one, he took it all in stride and used that opportunity to teach others about diabetes.

Maybe you've had family discussions about specials needs, or are the parent of a child with special needs. Either way, I think you'll be enlightened by our article on being a friend to someone with special needs. There are many other family discussion starters in this issue, including a touching story about breast cancer awareness. Odds are it's affected your family in some way..

Discuss the quickly-approaching Election Day with our feature on educating kids about elections. Plan a great low-cost outing with our travel ideas. And finally, start preparing for those college years now with our must-keep Guide to Ohio Colleges. Those years come more quickly than you think!

Happy talking!