This article presents a discussion that emerged in response to a dilemma faced by an experienced social work lecturer in planning an introductory life course lecture about people labelled as having learning disabilities. The dilemma related to whether or not to begin with a quote from a parent reflecting on her own feelings shortly after her twin children, aged six months, had been identified as having a congenital impairment. The statement, reproduced below, was made 13 years later, and involved a recollection of how the mother had felt when seeing a display of skipping ropes in a department store. A discussion ensued concerning how ways of thinking about impairment can be informed by the affirmative model of disability, a recent theoretical development within disability studies. The article takes the form of a dialogic exchange where the affirmative model is presented and examined as an alternative to the way disability has traditionally been understood in social work education. The aim is to illustrate the application of the affirmative model and to provide disabled people/social workers/families with a theoretical tool with which to look differently at impairment and disability and to challenge some traditional assumptions and practices.