Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Special? Normal?

I never used to like the way "special" was used to describe disabled people - special needs, special ed, etc. I used to think it was just a PC but patronizing way of saying "retarded" (a word I hate, by the way, even when used in the clinical sense). That was, of course, before I started spending my working hours among people who bear such labels as "developmentally disabled," "mentally retarded," or "special." And I came to realize something: we call these people "special" because it is an accurate description of what kind of people they are.
So-called "normal" people like myself fit into a mold. Yes, all beings are unique, but "normal" people seem to follow a pretty standard format. Our brains function in certain defined ways; we develop in similar ways and at similar rates. But "special" people, as far as I can tell, don't fit any mold. Sure, there are syndromes and disorders for diagnostic purposes, but as far as I've seen, every such person is different. Not damaged, not incomplete, not wrong - different. Special. And the best we "normal" people can do is to try to see things as they see them, because we could learn a lot.

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