Words are very powerful things. Obviously I think so, since I use them so much. One of the lessons I always try to teach my kids is how important words are, and what a profound effect they can have on people. Also, that words cause a different kind of hurt–cuts and bruises heal, but words can never, ever, be unsaid. That’s why I raised them to say things like “I’m mad at you” instead of “I hate you.” (Well, Evelyn doesn’t actually say anything. She just hits you when she’s pissed, but that’s another topic altogether.)
Having said all of that, I think maybe everyone has lost their mind. Even I have fallen victim to it, and I didn’t really realize it until today. I found an awesome online community called “Underground Moms.” It’s a group I fit in to very well, and so that should give you some idea of what it’s like. Check it out.
Anyway, I registered my blog, and there’s a spot to make a little statement about yourself for everyone to see, and I referred to my children as “typical” and “special needs.” I refer to them in those terms most of the time when the context calls for it, and I never even thought about it until today. Suddenly, it just hit me. What the hell does that mean? Typical? Special needs? WTF?????? What common sense and logic tell me is that I should say I have a normal kid and a disabled or handicapped kid. These terms do not offend me, and since they are my children, that’s what should matter, right?
I’ve been around handicapped kids my whole life. I was three when my sister was born, so I have no memory of a life without her. She went to school both before and after mainstreaming took place (another blog topic I could hit that I bet would get me some hate mail) and I spent a lot time at her “special school.” So anyway, it really doesn’t phase me. And we called them handicapped kids. In fact, the program which is run by the state of West Virginia to assist families with handicapped kids used to be called “Handicapped Children.” Guess what it’s called now? “Children With Special Health Care Needs.” Really. Because at some point, someone got offended. Even the normal kids can’t be called normal, because that implies that the handicapped kids are abnormal. So now those kids are typical, and the newest term I’ve heard which seems to becoming popular is neurotypical.
What is happening to us? We are so worried about offending someone, and some brain somewhere comes up with this crap, but it has nothing to do with reality. Maybe we should be a tad more concerned about the fact that we are raising a generation of children to be morally void automatons who have no empathy, ethics, or education. But that, of course, is just my opinion.
It seems like we are trying so hard to make it seem like a disabled child is just like all of the other children, but here’s a news flash, folks–they aren’t. My daughter is different, damn it, and she is special, and yes, she has special needs, but she is handicapped, too. I’m not ashamed of it, and I don’t have to try and put some pretty, PC phrase on her to make myself feel better. Maybe normal isn’t a great word, because really and truly none of us are normal–certainly no one in this house–but I guess it’s as good a word as any.
Ultimately, I guess what I’m trying to say is that maybe we should get to know the kids themselves instead of worrying about what they are called. For Evelyn alone, there are thousands of words I could give you that describe her–angel, for example, or devil, depending on the day–but there’s only two that mean anything to me: