I have read a few blog posts recently on the topic of labeling someone as "special needs" vs. "disabled". I am certainly no expert on this. Anyone who really knows me is probably aware that I'm not always the most politically correct person. I can't speak as a person who has a condition that would require a label...but I do know what I prefer for my son. How about we just say he has Down syndrome?
Down syndrome is a diagnosis. It can be proven. When Bryce was born, we had chromosomal testing done that determined he does in fact have Trisomy 21.....three copies of the 21st chromosome....otherwise known as Down syndrome.
Having Down sydrome is legally considered a disability. Having that "label" allows Bryce to recieve services and benefits that otherwise would not be available to him. Someday, I will be grateful for that. In fact, he is already benefiting from the 'label' with his early intervention services.
As a language person, though, I dissect that word in my head, and I don't care to think of my son that way. The prefix dis- means apart, away, or having a negative or reversive force. So, if we really look at the word disability, it is saying my son is the reverse of able? He is apart from having abilities?
Will Bryce have some disabilities? Probably. I doubt he will ever be a professor, or play in the NFL. Do I have some disabilities? Absolutely. They are called higher level math and organization :)
But is Bryce the reverse of able? Absolutely not. He is ABLE to brighten a person's day. He is ABLE to form an opinion. He is ABLE to feed himself with a fork. He is ABLE to break stereotypes with a single interaction. He will walk, he will read, he will move out of our house and break his mama's heart someday.
Will he HAVE special needs? Of course. He will always need someone to check up on him. He will need more time and patience. He will need modifications in school. Is he special needs? No. He is Bryce, and he has Down syndrome.
Having Bryce has taught me so much about the special needs/disabled community. I never thought much about what to call someone. I realize now that I need to call people who they are....their name first, then maybe, if necessary, their diagnosis. It is called "people first" language. Labels are sometimes necessary, and I am not in denial about what struggles Bryce's future likely holds. I just don't like to think of my son as anything other than who he is....my sweet, sassy second born.