One Term, Many Definitions:
“Special Needs” is an umbrella underneath which a staggering array of diagnoses can be wedged. Children with special needs may have mild learning disabilities or profound cognitive impairment; food allergies or terminal illness; developmental delays that catch up quickly or remain entrenched; occasional panic attacks or serious psychiatric problems. The designation is useful for getting needed services, setting appropriate goals, and gaining understanding for a child and stressed family.
Minuses and Pluses:
“Special needs” are commonly defined by what a child can’t do – by milestones unmet, foods banned, activities avoided, experiences denied. These minuses hit families hard, and may make “special needs” seem like a tragic designation. Some parents will always mourn their child’s lost potential, and many conditions become more troubling with time. Other families may find that their child’s challenges make triumphs sweeter, and that weaknesses are often accompanied by amazing strengths.
Pick any two families of children with special needs, and they may seem to have little in common. A family dealing with developmental delays will have different concerns than one dealing with chronic illness, which will have different concerns than one dealing with mental illness or learning problems or behavioral challenges.
By Terri Mauro
CASA works with many special needs kids. In fact, after doing a quick run through of the current caseload, we found that 42% of the children we serve have special needs. The criteria was met only by children who would qualify for IEP services for either a medical, mental health/behavioral, or developmental delay diagnoses. It excluded children receiving only counseling to help them deal with the issues that brought their case into care or the numbers would have been quite inflated.
The thing that we really want everyone to know about these kids is simple- they’re still kids. They still play, they still absorb the things they see and hear, and they still need love that is silly and supportive and allows them the most independence for their unique situations. In that vein we loved this meme-
We read an article the other day that humans have been caring for special needs children since prehistoric times, that they too saw the value of people who did not fit into the general norm. Two such proofs were-
4,000 years ago, a young woman from a site on the Arabian peninsula lived to 18. She had a neuromuscular disease, possibly polio, with very thin arms and leg muscles that would have made walking and movement extremely difficult. Debra L. Martin, associate professor of biological anthropology at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, says that she would have needed “round the clock care.”
Martin also points out that the young woman’s teeth had numerous cavities; she had also lost teeth from abscesses. Noting that her people grew dates, Martin posits that, to keep the young woman happy, she may have been fed “a lot of sticky, gummy dates.
10,000 years ago, Romito 2 lived until he was a teenager; his skeleton shows that he had a form of severe dwarfism that meant his arms were very short. He was therefore unable to live by hunting and gathering among his people, who “would have had to accept” what he could not do.
So know that special needs children not only live but many are able to live wonderful lives and cast light on those around them, despite their challenges.