It’s not all in the name….

I was compelled to write this post after a few incidents that have made me question society’s true opinion of individuals. That’s individuals as opposed to people, those of us who are maybe a bit different and don’t quite fit into that mould that society dictates we should, if we want to be grouped en mass  along with all the other people.

As young people we are dared to be different, told to stretch ourselves, advised not to follow the crowd, and yet if we are  considered truly different we are suddenly a magnet for ridicule. We are weird, strange, special, retarded.

Special needs is a label that has recently taken the place of other derogatory terms e.g. spaz, retard. The words have  just been swapped but not the meanings- so as labelling conditions has bome more “PC” so has the stetereotypical victimizing and degradation by the use of said labels. And so we find that the hurt and the harm is not in the name itself but in the expression, the nuance.

Recently  a furore on social media sites forced Asda, amazon and Tesco to remove a Halloween costume that was being advertised under the label of “mental patient”.  Of course we all know what a mental patient looks like, don’t we?! And the term itself – a generic, wastebasket term, an umbrella for anything and everything mind related.
This sort of incident targets a very specific group of individuals in a derogatory way. I’m not going to spell out the obvious points here- making such individuals feel embarrassed, depressed etc etc etc, if you can’t see it- get help- Now!

It is total ignorance, not to mention highly alarming, to believe someone who has special needs or mental health difficulties is actually different to someone without or that they are any less intelligent. A recent post on Facebook highlighted this perfectly when someone called one of my face book friends Special needs, the postee  was obviously lacking any intelligence.

This is a subject that makes me so cross, because its close to my heart and my home.  I have never learnt so much about people, and myself since my clever and talented boy was diagnosed with Aspergers.

So yes I’m cross, not for me, but for my son and every other individual who is made to feel inadequate because they do not fit into a mould that society dictates they should.

The world could learn a lot from the sport I love; in ironman triathlon we use special needs bags to store items that we may need during our race. These  are then kept at a certain point along the race route and can be picked up during the race if the athlete needs anything in the bag, food or spare tubes for example. When I mentioned this to someone, there was an sharp intake of breath. They asked me in a horrified way if I was disgusted? Quite the opposite, I was delighted that the term was being used in the way it should be- to highlight specific and individual needs- special to that person.  I filled my special needs bags but never used them, I didn’t need to, just as many people who fall into the special needs  category society puts them in don’t always use the tools and support they can have in their bags.

There’s no difference between my son’s  needs and mine, only mine sit in two plastic bags and his don’t. They sit in his mind, in a room, in a bag, in a song and they sit in my heart. For he is a small piece of me. I see myself in him so much that my heart aches because I know what he will face, I know how he will struggle, I know how tormented he will be because he doesn’t fit,  But I know, that like me, he is strong and he will fight, that he is stubborn and determined. He is a winner, inspite of any label.


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