If you overheard one child say that to another in the street I doubt you would stop and interfere, after all kids say things all the time, it’s a natural part of growing up, toughens them up for later life.
If you overheard a child say that to a child with a disability then even if you did not interfere I am sure you would feel a different reaction for eg. how awful, that child needs to be taught a lesson, I blame it on the parents, society etc.
Yet every single day we use terms to describe people with disabilities like ‘they have special needs’, ‘they go to a special school’, ‘we don’t use the term disabled we prefer to say special’ etc. etc. Let me try and explain where I am coming from:
Jack and Jill had grown up together, Jack had brown eyes and Jill like most of her friends had blue, it did not seem to make a great deal of difference when they were younger. Jill started to notice that Jack always seemed to get a lot of fuss made over him because he had brown eyes, he was often referred to as that ‘special little boy with the brown eyes’, people would smile sympathetically at Jack’s parents and say words like ‘It takes special parents to raise a special child’. Jack was sent to a ‘special’ school. Jill started to resent Jack, she wanted to be thought of as special too. One day they went up to the top of a hill, everyone thought Jack had fallen, but Jill knew different….
Ok so I am having a bit of fun with this analogy but consider this…
Are we unwittingly sending out subliminal messages by using these sort of descriptive terms?
Now I am not saying that young Jack in my story was not special, but what I am saying is that Jill was too. Jack was a child just as special as Jill but a child who had DIFFERENT NEEDS. Perhaps if that had been explained to Jill the outcome would have been very different.
You see, I really don’t believe that children are born with discrimination in their genes. Put a two year old with disabilities with an able bodied two year old and they will play quite happily, make the age gap bigger and they will still play, so what causes this to sometimes change. Outside influences play a big part and of course the discriminative child grows up to be a discriminate adult and thus the cycle is set.
This is part of a blog that I wrote about four years ago. Now you may think that I have gone back on my words as this very website has the word “special” in it’s title. There are two reasons for this.
1. ‘special needs’ is still the universal term that people use so it made sense to use something that everyone would recognise.
2. DNUG (Different Needs United Grandparents) does not have the same ring to it as SNUG!
Written by Anne Hawkes