What is a 'Special' need? If someone asked you what it was, would you know? What might you say?
I've personally never quite come to grips with the term myself. I find it generally invokes a sense of patronisation that reminds people there's something wrong with them. If anyone that doesn't really know Sam ever uses the term to describe him my first thought is usually, "Yeah, to me. Not you."
Working in education, you find an awful lot of ignorance around the term. Kids can be cruel, often unwittingly as much as deliberately, and I find that a lot of students will feel embarrassed when they get the full picture of what the words they say truly mean. I tell you, if I had a pound for every time I saw the pained look of embarrassment when I had to explain to someone where terms like 'mong' come from, it doesn't even bare thinking about.
If I could change anything about the world we live in (and let's face it there's a lot of things to pick from) it would be how we view 'Special' educational needs because I prefer to think of them as 'Specific'.
Pretty much everyone has an educational need at some point in their life. Those needs might be personal, like any disability, or they might be practical, like say needing glasses to read or being unable to go to school for an indefinite period of time because of a pandemic.
There's an infinite range and it all adds up to the same thing: something is slowing down your progress and you need specific help to get you passed it. That's the key for me, it's 'specific'.
It's not 'special' help that gets you over these barriers to learning. If someone is in a wheelchair they need access to a 'specific' classroom that isn't upstairs. There's nothing 'special' about working on a ground floor. It's the same, in principal, as someone with poor eyesight; you don't need 'special' glasses - you need a 'specific' prescription - that's all.
You might think I'm just being pedantic, and you might be right, but it still bugs me to this day. If we really want to help our kids with SEND then changing people's psychology around stigmatisms is one of the best ways we can do that. So next time you find yourself walking past a stranger, whether they're an adult or a child, and from the look of them you find yourself thinking they are 'SPECIAL'. Stop yourself.
They're likely to be someone who needs specific help. Whether or not they know it, or can get it in the first place, well that's a whole different ball game.