and why I put the term in my title anyway.
I know the majority of my readers are not the parents of disabled children, and so you may be wondering what the point of this post is. You’re probably completely unaware that there’s actually a controversy over the use of the term “special needs” in regards to disabled people and their parents. I myself only became aware that special needs was an offensive term to some a few years ago after I started following more disabled adults on social media.
In general, following adults in the disablity community opened my eyes more widely to ableism and the discrimination that disabled people face on a daily basis. I decided in order to be a better advocate for my sons, I had to make sure I wasn’t holding onto any inherent biases against them because of their disability. Plus, I needed to listen to the voices of those who fight for disability rights in order to raise sons who can learn to fight and advocate for their own needs as they get older.
What disabled people would like us to say is the word disabled with either person first or disability first language (so either a child with autism, an autistic child, or a disabled child or child with disabilities). So if I’m trying to do better, why would I put “special needs parents” in the subtitle of my book?
Because most of the people who will buy my book are not aware it’s an offensive or outdated term. For parents whose children have just been diagnosed, the term special needs is the one they will most likely be typing in the search bar as they scan Google for help. In a lot of ways, it’s familiar and a lot less scary than identifying their child as disabled and themselves as the parent of a disabled child.
In time, most parents of disabled children reach a point where they are willing to listen to and learn from disabled adults. But so long as we have the terms Special Olympics and special education, special needs will be common parlance in the English language. And while it’s good to work towards using the language that disabled people prefer when we talk to and about them, it’s certainly not the first thing that the parents of a disabled child need to learn within the first few months, or even year, following their child’s diagnosis. In fact many parents of disabled children will hold onto the title special needs regardless. But rather than berate or belittle them, I hope that through my writing ( and by exposing them to disabled adult voices), I can help them make that transition in due course.
So that’s a short explanation. I think most disabled adults would probably prefer I don’t use special needs in my title, or when describing my ministry Accepting the Gift. I get that, and I hope to educate parents of disabled children to make the switch, but until mainstream society and media changes course, I need for parents to be able to find me, and right now I know they’re still searching for “special needs” because that is all they’re familiar with. It’s my hope that by sharing a look at a part of the disability community my readers may be unaware of, I’m helping more people choose their words more carefully. (Order my book HERE.)
For more information on this topic check out the following posts:
- Here Are Some Dos And Don’t of Disability Language
- Three Reasons to Say Disability Instead of Special Needs
- Study – “Special needs” is an ineffective euphemism
- Why “Special Needs” is Not Helpful
Now link up below! Be sure to include a link back to this post so your readers can find the rest of the Quick Takes. I look forward to reading your posts.