Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Specific Needs v. Special Needs

WOW! Has it been 2 years since my last post. Guess I haven't had much to say but something has been weighing on my mind lately. A good friend is going through some trials with her kids, new health diagnoses etc. During one of her posts she commented that another friend coined the phrase a child with "specific needs" v. "special needs". This has really stuck with me. I have always hated describing Joshua as having special needs. I always felt like I was devaluing him and his strengths and letting people make judgements and opinions on his capabilities. Yes, my child is special to me but so is my daughter. All kids have specific needs. Emily needs more attention than others. She sometimes struggles with her spelling and learning how to play well with others and navigating the crazy drama world of girls playing together. If I had a nickel for every time Emily came home to declare so and so is no longer her friend followed by the next day where they are best friends again I would be rich. We all have struggles with our children some with more severe specific needs than others but it doesn't minimize what my family deals with. Hard is hard! My hard may be a different kind of hard than yours but it's still hard in my life. So back to the boy with his specific needs. He needs help remembering to go to the bathroom and he still sleeps in a pull up at night because we just haven't figured out a way to conquer this specific need. He struggles with writing not because he can't write, he's very capable, he just refuses to write because he does not see the need. He is quiet and doesn't talk much with others except his very close friends and lately he's even been answering questions in class. He loves Math. He has a high IQ but we acknowledge that this is just a minor part of who he is and there is so much more to the overall child that he is. He takes medicine for ADHD followed by bedtime medicine to help him relax so he can go to sleep. He has love and empathy for cats (not so much for his sister). He gets frustrated and meltdowns over things that appear small to others but is BIG in his world. He has accommodations accommodations at school to assist with his specific needs but he is smart enough and functions enough that he spends the majority of his day in a mainstream classroom. Noise sometimes bothers him so he wears headphones, no different than the kids who wear glasses or hearing aids or some other needed device. So that is the gist of it. I have children who have specific needs and many of my friends do as well. The key is to focus on what those needs are, help them navigate and learn to manage them and build up those strengths to give him value so he knows he really is no different from the kid in his class who has their own needs. Autism does not define my child. My child is defined by his personality, his humor, his strengths, his character, and many other things.