Labels: Ain’t Nothing Wrong With Being Special

I saw a post on Facebook the other day with a picture of a young boy, and the words, “I have a disability. I need love. I need to play. I need friends. I need an education. My needs aren’t ‘SPECIAL.'”  It originally came from the Wyoming Governor’s Council on Developmental Disabilities, and on their main page, the group describes their “I’m Not Special” campaign, relating use of the word, “Special” to the use of the r-word, citing that many in the DD/ID community are offended by the term “special”.  The page goes on to say, “The label of ‘special’ in reference to a person with a disability does not convey equality. Expectations for success should not be underestimated to accommodate the ‘special’ label that is associated with people with disabilities.”

A picture of a rubber duck wearing a nametag, ...

Feel free to chime in below, but here are my thoughts.  The “I’m not special” campaign??  Are you kidding me?  Yes, THAT’S what I want to tell my son.  “YOU are NOT special, suck it up.  You are just like everyone else, and I expect you to do the same as everyone else with no support.  Stop using your autism as an excuse.”  That’s what the name of that campaign says to me.  Here’s what’s true: one of the tenets of special education, and educational law in this country is that you need to throw out the word “equal” and replace it with the word “equitable”.  Because the reality is that some people need more help, than others, and some kids cost the school district more than others – they need to have equal access to the curriculum, so the school has to take an equitable approach to ensure that.

And for the record, I don’t like the word “disability”, but I haven’t formed a task-force and anti-disability campaign.  My son has plenty of abilities, and has deficits in certain other areas, but he is not dis-abled.

The truth of this is that our kids with special needs do have special needs.  They are not typical children who can bathe/dress/feed themselves, or pay attention in class themselves, or do homework by themselves.  My child needs supports to be able to show us his abilities in certain areas.  He is able, but needs some help.  He is special, much like any child is.  And he is equal in worth to anyone else.  He can be all of those things – they are not mutually exclusive.

I also saw this pretty neat news story on Facebook.  That little girl’s flute sounds the same as all the other flutes, but it works differently, thanks to the special design of Mr. Woody.  Her flute is not less, but it is special.