The first Us and Them rant is mine.
If my typical child goes to the playground, and is wierd, then the other kids react, and tell him that he "has" to quit that...and so he does, and he learns that he must not do X.
If my child with a diagnosis goes to the playground, and is weird, then they run to their parents, and ask what is wrong with that "funny-looking little girl over there?" And then their parents gawk at my child and try and round up a word that is all inclusive and defines that child. They tell their kid and because they got some kind of medical term thrown at them, they avoid my child like they have some kind of contagious plague...because there must be something crazy wrong with them to get their parents all freaked out... Consequently, my child pursues them because they were her friend just a minute ago...and they panic and my child is left alone and bewildered.
If the parent had told them that they didn't know, or told them the basic information that they had asked for in the first place, they would be more likely to go back to doing what they were doing and respond naturally to my baby...
Elise craves routines and clear boundries. I believe that most children do...but it is even more necessary for her. If she hugs Suzy and Suzy looks her in the eye and says "No hugs, please." Elise is more likely to abide by that boundary, than if Suzy runs away and whispers about her and refuses to make eye contact for the next 2 weeks.
I understand that it is easier to sort people than it is to get to know them, but we miss out when we avoid what we don't understand.
So, if your child comes up to you and says "what is wrong with that funny-looking girl?" Try out questioning back, "what do you mean?" Or answer honestly and specifically.
On a child with a hearing aide-
"What is wrong with that kid's ears?"
instead of :
"They are bionic ears!" or "He's deaf." or something embroidered and entertaining
"I'm not sure. He may not be able to hear very well. I think they are hearing aides, and they just make it louder so he can hear what you can."
If you think your child can ask nicely, you can encourage them to ask that child or their parent...
On a child that has Downs or some other physical differences:
"What's with the funny-looking girl?"
"Everyone is made differently, and she has feelings, too. Be nice and try and include her."
"She has something called Down Syndrome and she has some thing inside her called a chromosome that is confusing her. She can still play and understand you, let her do what she can."
Sometimes I tell kids who are confused that "Her heart is only 4 years old, even though her body is 7. She wants to play, and you can tell her to play nice if you have to."
I advocate answering only the questions that are asked. Do not bombard with unnecessary information...they will follow up when they need it. Plus, you will not have to "fix" your embroidery down the road.
But if there is no need to pigeon-hole someone, don't. You don't define everyone for your child, try to avoid doing that with people with obvious issues...they are still people and if your child learns that now, all the better.
People are people. Kids are kids. Talk, learn, make friends. I promise it will change your life in a good way.