The other night, Evelyn and I went for a walk near our apartment. She staggered around in a vacant, gravelly lot to burn off the last of the day's energy and I watched her. A woman came by to basically do the same thing with her dog. The dog would inspect Evelyn and Evelyn would inspect the dog, and everyone involved was very cute and respectful. After a while, the dog's mom asked if Evelyn had just learned to walk. I told her she had just really gotten the hang of things this past month, and we watched Evelyn careen over some uneven ground for a moment. Then this happened.
"So, how old is she?"
"Is she special needs? I'm just asking because she's really small and she's just now walking."
"Ah, no. She's just really small and takes her time doing stuff."
The woman went on to explain that she worked with children "who are special needs" and thought maybe there was something to Evelyn's size and wobbly steps and I went on to explain that Evelyn has been climbing things for the past 9 months because she is strong. I probably also said something about her genetic background, which is a perfect storm of phenomenally small tininess and Hobbit-elf characteristics. We parted amicably, with Evelyn waving at her new friends and me thinking "What a jackass."
Let's disregard the part where a total stranger asked personal questions about my child's health and development while implying that maybe I was not doing a good job of care for her. That is a part of my everyday life as a parent. It's even more fulfilling than I dreamed it would be.
No, let's get to the part where she asked if my child was literally special needs. What does that even mean? I've heard people say this for years and I hate it every time.
"I'm ADD." No, you're not. You don't even have ADD, and what you are is distracted. It makes sense to say "I'm distracted.", or even more accurately, "I'm not paying attention."*
"I'm OCD and can't stand to see things out of order." No. Just no. OCD is a serious illness, and your nervous habit of straightening magazines on a coffee table is neither obsessive, nor compulsive. There's no need to trivialize a very serious problem while spewing your grammatically incorrect lies. No one is OCD, but some people do have it.
"I'm anal." I wish you could see what happens to my soul whenever this happens.
As for Evelyn being special needs? She's not. She's special or whatever. I'm her mom, so you can't really take my word for it.
I could get into the psychology of what saying someone is special needs means or why using the phrase "an individual with disabilities" is so much different than saying "a disabled individual", but this isn't a post about how people are so much more than their depression or asthma or cancer or missing leg or whatever. I really hope you're smart enough to figure that out on your own without my witty post spelling things out for you.
This is just a plea, people of the world, to stop using terms incorrectly. You're not ADD, you're not OCD, and I truly and desperately hope you're not anal. So please, please, please stop saying that you are.
In conclusion, here is a picture of an adorable child. As far as I know, she doesn't have special needs.
|"I heard the word 'special.' I can only assume you're talking about me. Please compliment my sunglasses."|
*Most of the people I know who have ADD don't run around yelling "I'm ADD! I can't do anything!" unless they're just idiots. I know that sometimes a person's ADD can be incredibly difficult, and at those times it would be correct to say "My ADD is just making it really hard to concentrate right now." Or, as one of my siblings would say, "This isn't important! Do you want a snack?"