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Thursday, February 02, 2012

That Word Special

I have a love/hate relationship with the word special.

- kids with special needs
- special-needs family
- Special Education
- Special Education teacher/classroom
- special ed bus
- Special Olympics
- special, special, special ... most of the time I want to say, but we're just an ordinary family! There is nothing special about us!

Kayla has a harder time with academics. She doesn't pick up on concepts as quickly or easily as most typical kids do. But when a typical child is falling behind in a subject what do they get? Extra help. They get extra help in reading, or math. So why does Kayla get special education? Why isn't what she getting just the same - extra help? She has needs, but why are they special needs? They are just needs. Extra needs sometimes. Additional needs/help.

She's not special or extraordinary because she has an extra (not special) chromosome. She's just a kid with +1 more chromosome. Does that make her special-special? No. It's just who she is.

And I don't fully buy into the concept that God only gives special children to special people/parents. Not at all.

God did not give Kayla to me because I was special. Because I wasn't. And I'm not. Seriously. I'm no more special a person than you or you or you. There was nothing I did in my pre-motherhood life that set me apart from anyone else. I'm average. Typical. I did nothing that would have showed God I was 'meant' to be a parent of a kid with special needs. I did nothing to show I was any more ready, deserving, capable, or equipped of having a child with Down syndrome than anyone else.

If God only gives these special kids to special parents, then what about the 90% of women who terminate their pregnancies upon finding out their baby has Down syndrome? If they were given this special child because they are a special person then why did they not carry their baby to term? Why in Eastern Europe are babies with Down syndrome who are born to those special parents immediately left at the hospital or orphanages? Aren't they special parents because they were given a special child?

I'm not special. I wasn't before I had Kayla and I most certainly am not after I gave birth to Kayla. On any (most) given day my parenting skills are certainly lacking in being a special parent.

I'm just a mom. A mom raising two kids.
For the most part we're a pretty typical family - mom, dad, daughter, son. That's it. Not a special family.

It's not even that it's a negative word. Just look at a few of the descriptions from Dictionary.com
1. of a distinct or particular kind or character: a special kind of key.
2.being a particular one; particular, individual, or certain: You'd better call the special number.
3.pertaining or peculiar to a particular person, thing, instance, etc.; distinctive; unique: the special features of a plan.
4.having a specific or particular function, purpose, etc.: a special messenger.
5. distinguished or different from what is ordinary or usual: a special occasion; to fix something special.
I'm not advocating against using the term special needs. It's clearly not anything like using the R-word. I know it's an easy umbrella term to cover all people with disabilities or who have some kind of differing-need.

I'm just saying ... that I have this love/hate relationship with that word special. That's all. 

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Becca said...

I use it when it's convenient, or a means to an end (read: to get what I want). Kind of like when I use "disability." :-) I completely agree with you - it's not a terrible or even *bad* word, it's just not quite right.

ckbrylliant said...

I clearly understand you on this. I think I have these feelings with the comment 'people with down syndrome are always happy'.....ugh, no, not really. Come on over and listen to my daughter scream at me from 3-5 pm every evening or listen to the screeching while her daddy tries to put her pj's on. All very typical behaviors of a 2 year old. I don't usually mind because it's mostly posed as a question or inquiry into what life is like with someone with DS. It's the statements of fact as if it is a consolation prize. We already have the prize so there is no need for consolation.

Anonymous said...

That's funny that you mention that, because when I was in school, if you need extra help with academics, it WAS called "Special Help." In fact, I think they called the last period of the day "special help." I could be wrong about when it was, but I was a fairly typical kid academically, and I often stayed after for math special help. Wasn't that special? ;-)

Lexi said...

Yes, thank you! I kind of hate it when people say, "special kids for special parents" for the exact reasons you said and because it's a pedestal that I cannot live up to. A mold that I don't fit. I wasn't given my autistic son and daughter with Down syndrome because I was anything special. I feel like I was given them because I need to be a better person to be able to live up to what they need me to be.

Plus, if people believe that only special people can raise special kids, I really feel like the abortion rate will stay as crazy high as it is.

Diatribe over. Great post!

MIL/Mom said...

I only disagree with one thing you said. Honey God knew all about you before you were even born. He knew what kind of kid, teenager, wife and mother you would be. God also will never give you anything that you can't handle so Kayla was meant to be with you and Joe because that was/is God's plan for the two of you and her, not because you are special.

PS: You are a very special person to me :-)

To Love Endlessly said...

whew you said it mama!

Cindy said...

That word is looked at differently in our house too. It's not that we hate it, its just that we... don't like it. It's been overused and now when we hear it, it makes us feel like it's describing our family.

But it's not.

Anonymous said...

wow! powerful statement, comment. good for you for sharing your honesty and feelings. Yea , when people know I have a granddaughter that happens to have DS, the comment from them is " they are so sweet and happy. NOT!!i QUICKLY REMIND THEM. THEY ARE JUST LIKE EVERY KID OUT THERE.Kayla has a personality which includes emotions,frustrations,sadness, independence, angry, delight, not agreeing with everything, not being nice sometime (to her brother) I was not always nice to my siblings. and on and on... love mom

Anonymous said...

Amen!!! I could not have said it better myself! That is exactly how I feel. Well said.

Matt Maresca said...

We're all special because we're all different. We all have our own challenges. Sure some are more difficult than others, but we would not be here if we could not handle them. You have a beautiful family!

Not a Perfect Mom said...

I can't stand when people tell me I'm so great and God chose me...it really pisses me off...and whether or not I believe it, you are those people to say that...ugh! I think most people just don't know what to say...
and the special thing...yeah, the term special olympics gets me...I think it's a great organization, but I almost feel like it belittles the people

ChupieandJ'smama said...

Very well put Michelle. Very well put.

Crittle said...

Right there with you on this one!

Nan said...

I've always spoken about my daughter (and all children) as not having special needs, but very typical needs that might sometimes need to be met in special ways. This keeps the focus on the very important needs (a la Maslow)--such as the need for food and shelter, a loving home, the need to belong, to be accepted and loved, to be challenged. And then addressing and meeting these very common/basic/shared needs. So, for example, with a child who is tube feed, its not a "special" need, the need (to be fed) is the same need shared by ALL children, it just has to be met in a special way. It just reframes the way we think of all children with so-called "special" needs.

And honestly, I just do the finger down-the-throat, gag-me-with-a-spoon mime everytime I hear "special needs"daughter, "special needs" students, "special needs" parents. Even more so when it comes from parents who self-identify in this way.

Bailey's Leaf said...

Each and every one of your points is something I hadn't tought of. You are right. Calling extra help "special education" nets school districts more money than they would have had otherwise. I know that K- doesn't qualify for a speech IEP because now she doesn't appear to have a disability and with with that, districts get no or little money. Still, out of school, special is way overused.

Thank you for bringing this up. Very thought provoking regarding word useage.

lovemy3 said...

I'm the same...I only use it when I have to or I need to. It is the word I cringed the most with when she was first born. Yes, she is special but so are my boys...aren't all children special?