‘I am not ashamed’: Disability advocates, experts implore you to stop saying ‘special needs’


In our daily lives, we may encounter phrases such as “I am disabled” or “My child has special needs”. and for someone who is not part of CommunityThe word may seem synonymous. but it’s not like that.

Most experts and advocates strongly oppose the term “special needs” and believe that we need to eliminate it from our vernacular. In addition, they say to avoid the word “Disabled“Only leads to stigma.

To some, the term “special needs” sounds offensive.

“I am disabled by society because of my weakness,” says Lysette Torres-Gerald, Board Secretary of the National Coalition of Latinx with Disabilities. “My needs are not ‘special’; they are the same, human needs that everyone else has, and I need to be able to participate fully in society just like the next person.”

It can also be counterproductive.

Researchers from a 2016 study found that people who are referred to as “special needs” are viewed more negatively than those with a disability.

Lawrence Carter-Long goes viral with hashtag #say the word In an effort to promote the use of “disabled” several years ago.

Carter-Long, director of communications for the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund, says that the term disabled connects community members “to one another, to our common history, and to the lineage of all who one day struggled, protested and Persevere. We can also be proud of our disability history.”

Torres-Gerald says that there is power in the word handicapped.

“I have no shame in being disabled; I consider it a difference that allows me to see the world in a different way than other people.”

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History of the term ‘special needs’

It is not clear where the term “special needs” originated; A theory “special needs” arose after the launch of the Special Olympics in the 1960s, according to which 2016 study Published in “Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications”.

National Center on Disability and Journalism special needs “It was popularized in America in the early 20th century during an emphasis on special needs education to serve people with disabilities of all types.”

The data shows that it has entered the public consciousness in the last few decades. Special needs books have become increasingly popular over the past several decades, while “disabled” has declined significantly.

The term isn’t legal—in fact, it appears only a dozen times in thousands of pages of laws in the U.S. “Children with disabilities or adults with disabilities are never referred to as children with special needs or adults with special needs.” . .,” according to the study. “Rather, persons with disabilities are always referred to in US law as persons with disabilities.”

Jamie Davis Smith, whose daughter is disabled, points out that people with disabilities are entitled to certain rights—from movie theater seating to Medicaid and more.

“Special needs” do not provide the same legal protection.

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The term ‘special needs’ is harmful, say experts

“Special needs” has actually become a “dyspemism”—a pejorative term as opposed to a soft one. Like saying “looney bin” instead of “mental hospital”.

quinn west, a disabled artist living in Chicago, grew up attending a mainstream school and felt the impact of the term “special needs”.

“Abled people assume that saying ‘special’ means ‘good special’ when children with disabilities going through the system know that the child will use ‘special’ as an insult,” West says.

West says this makes people with disabilities sound like an added burden, when it doesn’t; “I’m deaf, so like everyone else I have a need for communication. That need is nothing extraordinary. Human connection has the same need, but I just need a habitat to do that.”

Neela Morton, a 22-year-old college student in South Carolina, disability advocate and model, says words matter. It’s okay to say “disabled” and “disabled,” Morton says. “Those words are not bad. The only reason they are seen as bad is because of a competent-standard view of incompetence.”

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What parents say about children with disabilities

Parents may be more comfortable using “special needs.” But their children most likely will not take them with them into adulthood.

“Although it is used by parents of children with disabilities as those children become young adults, they do not use the term,” says Lauren Appelbaum, vice president of communications at Respectability.

smith doesn’t want him disabled daughter Claire has “special” treatment. Her daughter just needs extra help. “I think it’s really important that non-disabled people, people who don’t know people with disabilities, understand that I’m not really asking for anything special for my daughter, I’m just asking that she be able to participate in his community, in life, on the same grounds as my other children,” she says.

Parents who choose to use the term are not coming from a bad place.

“Parents, like all of us, are prone to adopting what is common in the ecosystem around them,” says Carter-Long. “And since most people aren’t born into families with disabilities, it’s no surprise that they adopt what their friends and neighbors do. Even if it’s unintentionally grown up. Even if it hurts their kids. harms in ways they absolutely do not understand.”

what should you say instead

National Center on Disability and Journalism Recommends never to use it: “Our advice: Avoid the term ‘special needs.’ Disability is acceptable in most contexts, but we recommend asking the person you’re referring what they prefer Huh.”

Sonja Sharp, a Metro reporter with the Los Angeles Times, prefers identity-first language: “disabled” over “disabled.” “It’s cleaner, it’s easier, and it’s more reflective of my reality,” Sharp says. “The law defines me as disabled.”

For Sharpe, disability is at the core of his identity.

“Every important experience—school, friendship, puberty, sex, career, marriage, motherhood—is shaped by this body, made different because of this body,” she says. “I am handicapped the way I am Jewish – intrinsic and inseparable from me.”

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