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Time to reject ‘special needs'


When we see discussions about people with disabilities, we almost always hear the words ‘special needs’. However, when I ask what is the special need, I get answers like ‘He needs a wheelchair and that is special as others don’t need one’. “She needs speech therapy as she cannot talk, and this is special as others of her age can talk”.

However a moment’s reflection shows that this is nonsense. For the person who can’t walk, the need is to be mobile, and the wheelchair is one way of meeting that need. However the need could also be met by an electric tricycle, wheelbarrow or by being carried (as occurs in third world countries). For the girl who doesn’t talk, the need is to communicate, and this need could be met by technology such as an ipad, communication by hands and fingers, or being placed in a stimulating environment where there are numerous competent models such as the regular classroom.

This insightful article helps us with our thinking around the use of the world "special" and how it really acts as a barrier for people with disability when trying to seek a good ordinary life. 

Dr Robert Jackson
Publication Date
1 May 2016
Unknown, Families, Parents, Professionals, Teachers, Other, Person with disability
inclusion, education, attitudes

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