Everyone has needs. Back in the 70’s and 80’s when I went to school we were taught there were basic needs that everybody has. Food, Shelter and clothing were the top three. I confess, I can’t recall the other two, I do recall thought that water was encompassed in the food need. In an effort to recall the five I just googled it. Wikipedia has an article on basic needs and it lists some different lists dependent on country. However, it is interesting to see that education and healthcare are also considered basic needs also.
If these are basic needs then the idea of special needs must apply to everyone. Any person claiming to need beyond this list must be calling for “special needs”. It does seem a little far fetched, but, if we consider against the needs that are often labelled as “special needs” we must take pause and think.
Are these “special” needs I am seeking out here so special after all or just needs, like everyone else’s needs.
Is it so special to want every child to have the same access to educational and healthcare services?
Is it so special to have an expectation that a teacher will take the time to consider the unique needs of each of the students they are asked to teach? Isn’t that just part of the job description.
In public discourse, the statement “special needs” is a prevalent term. It is even applied as a moniker of sorts to some parents by themselves. Of course, the literal thinking autistic in me wonders when I see someone refer to themselves as a special needs mum, are they in some way asking for something special for themselves, are their needs special or are they referring to their child?
Perhaps the idea of unique needs is more accurate. I have a daughter with unique needs. She has a very rare condition of her brain, her needs are unique due to that and the other conditions she has. But are they in any way more special than my other children’s needs?
Perhaps the idea that every single person alive has their very own unique needs.
Perhaps the thing for me is that the “special” tag has a connotation of inferior. It has a connotation of intellectually inferior, it has a connotation of inferior in general and sub-normal. Whatever normal actually is anyway.
The incredibly sobering and extremely scary thing with that line of thought is that it is not a very long leap to go from inferior or sub-normal to a concept of sub-human.
In the case of autistic people, we have seen the idea of sub-human before. And not just from the general public but from the autism professional class. Ivaar Lovaas, the creator of the abusive therapy known as Applied Behaviour Analysis, referred to autistics as human-like shells that could be filled up.
One clinician describes autism as a terminal illness and autistic children as dead souls. Others consider them “shells” or “husks.” The most unnerving revelation occurs when Silberman profiles Ivar Lovaas, the developer of a common therapy known as Applied Behavior Analysis. In a 1974 interview, Lovaas says that autistic children “are not people in the psychological sense.” He combats an autistic child’s self-injurious behavior by striking her, and his therapy rooms deliver corrective shocks through gridded floors. Spoons of sherbet serve as rewards—a method that seems less sweet when Lovaas reports that “it is a pleasure to work with a child who is on mild food deprivation.”
The jump from special needs to subhuman is not very far at all. It is an incredible and scary jump indeed. A jump that due to the narrative and rhetoric of “special needs” that instead of meaning individual and unique is associated with less, inferior and aberrant.
That jump has been made by many parents of autistics too. They have subscribed to the terrible lie that autistic children are vaccine damaged, or infested by rope worms. In the later case, they have fallen victim to a charlatan cult leader Jim Humble and possibly also to another charlatan cult leader colleague Kerri Rivera.
That jump results in the use of absolutely horrid treatments inflicted on autistic children. It results in Bleach being fed to children by mouth and inflicted on them via anal enemas. It results in children being placed on restrictive diets with no medical basis. It results in children being subjected to unwarranted faecal transplants, to dangerous chelation therapies and to being placed into hyperbaric oxygen chambers.
So let’s stop calling everything special needs and just acknowledge that we are all different and we all have different needs.
Our needs are not special they just needs. Our needs. None of us is a special snowflake. There is actually no such thing as special snowflake syndrome, because we are all just humans, and we all just have needs.
None of us is any more special than any other. Special needs. No, just needs.
They’re my needs, they’re your needs. They are unique, yes, because we are all unique. They just aren’t special. And calling them such has a risk of sending us down a slippery slope towards considering some just a bit less human than others. And when that happens the consequences are horrid.