Sunday, September 4, 2011

Special Needs

Merriam-Webster defines “Special Needs” as:
: the individual requirements (as for education) of a person with a disadvantaged background or a mental, emotional, or physical disability or a high risk of developing one
   special–needs adjective

I honestly went to look it up because I was suddenly not totally sure I knew what the term fully entailed. 

Kat’s Café is a blog I found not all that long ago, and I have enjoyed the writing, and applaud this mom’s commitment to advocacy.  She announced a Blog Hop a while back for the special needs blog world, and I immediately thought I’d like to be involved.  The thing is though, while there was a long time when I would have used the term “special needs” for the kids, I realized I have not actually said those words in some time, but wasn’t totally sure why.

It wasn’t something I consciously quit using and after some thought, I think I am more apt to use the term “medically complex” these days, but WHY??  What has changed really??  There was a time when it was a term used regularly when it came to my children, very appropriately, but what changed was the “audience” if you will, that I was more commonly talking to. Slowly but surely, over the years, our audience changed, and with that came a change in terminology.  When the kids were in school it was the term that was used.  When they were still in physical, occupational and speech therapy, it applied.  But at the point when we had been home schooling for a while, and we finally stopped therapies after years and years of going, we started dealing with the medical people in our lives more, and with that came a change in our “label”.

I think the other thing that changed and perhaps played a part in this change of terminology, is that at some point the kids developmental issues were overshadowed by their medical issues.  This happened in part because their developmental issues improved, and in part because the medical issues became more pronounced. 

According to the definition, the term “special needs” still applies to my children, as does “medically complex”, but really, when all is said and done, applying labels doesn’t really define WHO my children are, and perhaps that’s what has really changed in our world.  We find ourselves less frequently needing to label them in order to get help, and thus, can now start talking about WHO they are and what makes them each unique.  We can use other “labels” like “quirky”, “old soul”, along with lots of awesome descriptive terms that, in the end, really gives you an idea of who they are and what they CAN do.

I have no issue with labels….they are still needed sometimes, even for us.  They allow you to define the issue at hand in a concise way that others can understand quickly.  There is much to be said for that!!  Especially when attempting to navigate the “system”. Labels are useful tools, and while I know some have issues with “labeling” their children and what that might mean for them in the long term, I’d suggest that in our experience the labels were useful for the time when they were useful, and then they fell away as they became un-needed, or no longer helpful.

Perhaps though, what really changed is that my children grew and matured; and ultimately made it clear to anyone that knows them that they, and they alone, will define themselves in this life. 

In the end I realized that I really wasn’t in that place anymore to be a part of the blog hop.  For a myriad of reasons and blessings, my contributions to the special needs world just doesn’t  amount to much anymore.  And I am….really okay with that.

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