Not Special Needs - How This Euphemism is Counter-Productive

June 1, 2021grusha

Hi guys,

I am SO EXCITED to present this video and the article to you today. Thanks to my amazing brother (who also did EL in school) for finding this in his newsfeed and linking it to me.
You can see the video here (PLEASE WATCH FIRST!):
Upon further investigation, I found this to be a great 2017 example of how using the euphemistic (and PC) phrase 'special needs' is actually NOT appreciated by the Down Syndrome community (not entirely, but from what I have seen there seems to be some who don't agree with this euphemistic phrase).
After investigating their site further (, I noticed that they write about why they don't like to be 'special', even though this is the politically correct thing to say! Why? This is directly from their site:
The phrase "special needs" is a common euphemism – usually intended by the speaker to refer to a person with a disability in what they think is a more positive or comfortable way.
But the phrase "special needs" is actually counter-productive in so many ways:
1. By definition, it “exceptionalises,” segregates and excludes.
2. It stigmatises as it is associated with segregated settings (e.g. special schools, special workshops and special group homes), and accordingly for many, a “special needs” label is effectively a one-way ticket to a separate, segregated, low expectations pathway through life.
3. Being a euphemism, it is increasingly considered patronizing, condescending and offensive by people with disabilities.
4. It serves to distance people with "special needs," as it implies that their needs can only be met in a "special" way or by "specialists." This complicates inclusion of people with disabilities in regular education and employment.
5. In “exceptionalising” disability and reinforcing attitudinal barriers, it hinders the recognition of disability as a part of human diversity and slows the realization of human rights for people with disabilities.
6. Recent research suggests that people respond more negatively to someone described as being or having "special needs," compared to someone described as having disabilities or a particular disability.
The site further explains what should be used instead...
But what words should we use instead?
Well, it depends on the context.
How about just the person’s name? It is not always necessary or appropriate to refer to someone by a label.
But in the situations where it is helpful, we should "say the word," and call disabilities or the relevant disability what it is - "Disability," "Down syndrome," etc.

This is a great example you can put in your essays on political correctness and formal language - and how being PC is not having the intended effect in society!

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