Don’t Call Me Special

Time to get Rid of “Special”?

“Special” implies differentness and apartness. “Special” is the label on segregated programs: “special education” and “Special Olympics.” “Special” is a euphemism, a word introduced by do- gooders to sugar-coat their control of our lives. After all, disabled citizens have “special needs” not “special rights.”

Beyond the AP Stylebook: a “Special” Note

The term “special” as in “special education” has been, is, and will be used to refer to efforts made to meet group and individual educational needs. However, the term “special” has come to be used as a euphemism for segregated programs or physical facilities that are almost always inferior to what is available to nondisabled individuals. “Special” has definite negative connotations within the disability rights movement.

The Case Against “Special Needs” (PDF)

If our society believed children with SPECIAL NEEDS were really SPECIAL, wouldn’t every parent dream of having a child with SPECIAL NEEDS? But the opposite is true: our society so devalues children with disabilities that identifying and aborting them is becoming common practice. And within the adoption world, children with SPECIAL NEEDS are the last to be adopted! So, again, just how SPECIAL are children with SPECIAL NEEDS? ISn’t the term actually a harmful euphemism that means just the opposite?

Needs Are Not Special

“Special needs” is part of this dichotomy which is used to split able and disabled. Indeed, to alienate disability. Disability is different and “special” and hard and weird. “Special” is an isolating word, in fact, because it sets people apart, and not necessarily in a good way, no matter what the original meaning of the word is

Ableist Word Profile: Special

So, here’s what I, personally, don’t like about special: I feel like it’s an isolating word. I feel that the concept of ‘special’ stands in the way of full integration into society, and it also perpetuates some very harmful myths. It sets people with disabilities aside and stresses that they are different and alien. That using a wheelchair, for example, is ‘special’ and different and weird.

  1. Dallin Phillips says:

    I agree, we have been our boys are “special” or called special ourselves for so long. Jan Hart went to BYU where the word is used a lot so to quote her, “I would rather be dead than special”.

  2. Connie Pehrson says:

    I don’t think there is just one word to use to descibe my son. He is joyful, challenging, engaging, loving, stubborn, frustrating, inspiring, uplifting, compassionate, strong, determined, animal-lover, attention-loving, scary to little children, adorable to his sisters… The list goes on. He certainly is ‘special’ and he certainly has ‘special’ needs. But most of all he is just a very interesting, and lovable boy-man who is living his life the best he can. So call him special is you want to…we call him Scott. (By the way, his parents aren’t that special either:)

  3. […] this week, Christopher Phillips shared a very useful link with opinions from the disability community on the appropriateness of the word “special.” A handful of consistent themes run through criticisms of the use of […]