Warning: The following is a bit of a rant.
I saw a headline today that really irked me. It said that a particular celebrity couple had been told that their premature child might “be special needs.” (I had never heard of them, and only skimmed the article, so this is not really about them or about anything that may have been said in the article.) That one phrase in the headline is what bothered me.)
“BE special needs,” “IS special needs,” “IS autistic,” “Down Syndrome child” –I hear or see these phrases on an almost daily basis. My son HAS Fragile X Syndrome. (He does not HAVE autism.) He HAS special needs. He IS NOT special needs. Mark IS a gift from God. He IS and eight-year-old boy. He IS precious to us. He IS a child who HAS special needs.
I know that most of the people who use these labels (and that’s what they are) do not mean to disparage children and adults who have differences and disabilities. (And having a husband who is a journalist, I can certainly appreciate the need to make a headline fit.) But I think what concerns me the most is how many parents of children (and adults) with special needs use this terminology to refer to their children. And I can’t help but wonder how much this leads them to subconsciously identify their children with the special needs that they have, instead of identifying them as a person, a child, who has difficulties to overcome and compensate for, and simply to accept for who they ARE.
We need to choose our words carefully not just for the sake of those who hear them, but also for our own sake.
Alright, the rant is over.