The Connotation of Special Needs

Sitting at the speech therapist’s office, Katie looked over at me and asked, “Just why do I get special assignments in class?  Why do my teachers read my tests out loud and sometimes give me more time?”  My immediate reaction was I wanted to tell her because you are “special” because of your seizure disorder.  Yet that seemed wrong.  I mean, she is special to me, but that isn’t why she gets accommodations and modification in school.  I honestly, did not want her to feel “different” either.  I wanted her to understand the problem, and be part of the solution.

I scratched my head on that one and asked for more time to think about it.  She agreed and off she went into her therapy session.

Later I realized exactly what I wanted to tell her.

We began to talk about distances.  She is a lover of math problems, so this worked great for her.  I began to explain to her that sometimes when we go to Florida it takes us 14 hours, and sometimes it takes us 16 hours.  It just depends on different factors like the weather, the road conditions, accidents, and detours.  This brought up lots of stories about our road trips which made both of us laugh.  The ones we laughed the most at were the ones that involved road blocks.  She especially like the long road block we had in Atlanta one year when Megan and I both came down with the stomach flu in a hotel.  She found that one particularly hilarious (me – not so much).  Let’s just say our time to Florida that year was 36 hours. Ugh….

I explained that our brains work the same way as our road trips.  At school we are under time constraints (unfortunately).  If our brains encounter more barriers in that time period because of seizures (or whatever may be the issue), then just like when we are in the car and bad weather hits, we are going to hit more slow downs or detours. We need to have a plan.

The storms and bad weather in the brain are hindering or slowing us from getting to our destination.  So just like we would pick up our phones and ask Google to find us a new route, we need to ask for help from our teachers.  It isn’t our fault there are barriers blocking our way, it is just the hand that we are dealt that day.

Some days may be better than others, but just like the weather, we cannot predict when that will happen, so we have a plan to get through the detours.  Thank goodness for teachers and flexibility!

Our plan is by giving Katie accommodations and modifications to her work load, then she is better able to accomplish the task at hand.  Her brain surgery has caused some slow downs, and addressing these road blocks and how to detour around them is important.

It doesn’t make her less than any other student – it just means we have to be prepared for slow downs, just like when we take road trips to Florida.

Her entire life she has experienced these slow downs, and plowed her way through the obstacles with perseverance and patience.  Sometimes she gets frustrated when she cannot get as much done as she would like to, but most of the time she accepts the challenge and powers through.  Seizures are just part of her life.

Society tends to call these kiddos – “Special Needs Kids” – that’s an okay name, but it stresses the special to ensure we understand they are different.  Usually different doesn’t have a good connotation to it.  It can sometimes make kids feel bad about who they are, and that certainly should not be the case. It can cause other kids to point out these “special” kids and treat them unfairly or differently, and that can lead to the “special” kiddos feeling like outcasts.

These kids are only different because they must work twice as hard to accomplish the same tasks as other kids.  Most of these “special” kids make it to the very same destination as everyone else – it just takes a little longer because their storms or road blocks hinder their journey.  The goal, in most cases is accomplished, but with more perseverance and humility.  Definitely more humility.

We make these kids feel “less than” because of the help they receive, but that is certainly far from the case.  Their humble strength should be an inspiration to others, but unfortunately society sees it differently.

I am so proud of Katie’s strength and endurance.  She doesn’t win awards for academics, for high test scores, or for the best essay – but she does win for enduring and finishing the race with the most road blocks.  That is pretty darn special in my mind and certainly not “less than” others.

So I guess if you want to call her special for that reason, go right ahead.  I can only hope that someday she won’t have as many road blocks and will be able to finish the journey in record time all the while having compassion for those who just like her needed a little extra help along the way.

Hebrews 12:1-3 And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

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About aslamkowski

Blogger, Speaker and Author of "Revealing Faith: Learning to Place God First in Your Life" Most importantly, desperately wanting to hear and follow God's Will, wife of Peter and mother of three kids.
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6 Responses to The Connotation of Special Needs

  1. Jodee says:

    I think Katie and her mom are pretty special

  2. Karen Warrick says:

    So well stated Anne, May I share this?

  3. TheMysticMom says:

    Beautiful story, Anne. Thanks for sharing. Many of us needed this insight today!

  4. Beryl Held says:

    Anne, we have a nine year old granddaughter who has autism. You perspective on roadblocks & bumps accurately describes Lauren’s learning experience in the classroom. Thank you so much.

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