Disability vs special needs

I’m sometimes asked “Why do you say “disability” instead of “special needs”?

Here’s the most basic reason:

  • When people say “special needs”, the next word is usually “kids”.
  • When people say “disability”, the next word is often “rights”.

I’m an adult, and I want equal rights. For that reason, I’m going to keep using the language that has room for adulthood and power.

You can only speak for yourself

You are not your child’s voice. You are not the voice of the voiceless. You are not anyone’s voice, except your own.

You can advocate for others, but you can only speak for yourself.

You can translate. You can guess. You can do lots of things. You can advocate.

But you are you. You are not your child. Or your student. Or your sister. No matter how well you understand them. No matter how much you love them. You are not them. You are you.

They have a perspective of their own, and it is not the same as yours. Whether or not they can articulate it, whether or not anyone knows what it is, they have a perspective that is wholly their own.

When you speak, you are speaking from your own perspective; that is the only perspective you *can* speak from. You can never get inside another person’s head; you can never share their perspective; you can never be their voice.

Make sure that you keep in mind that the person you care about exists as a person separate from you, and that they disagree with you about some things; probably even some really important things. (No one 100% agrees with another person about everything.). Do not speak as though you and they are essentially the same person, or as though they automatically agree with everything you think. They are real, and their perspective matters.

A question about playing games with ‘special needs teenagers’

What are some good, simple games you could play with a bunch of 14-18 years old special needs teenagers?
That depends entirely on what they like and what their needs are. I can’t really tell you good games without knowing the teenagers in question. All “special needs” tells me is that someone decided that these teenagers should be in a segregated program rather than integrated with non-disabled peers.
You should take into account the very real possibility that kids that age might not be especially interested in playing simple games. A good percentage of teenagers aren’t, and being classed as “special needs” doesn’t necessarily change that.
There are tons of websites that have suggestions for games to play with people of various ages. (Including adults. Don’t ignore suggestions meant for adults). I’d say look those up, see if there are any that seem like the folks you work with might enjoy, and try them. And then, if that doesn’t work, do something else.
But also, ask them. If they’re people who have expressive language, ask them if they know any good games, or what else they’d like to do. If not, make suggestions and see how they react. Respect their communication and preferences.
No one that age should ever have to play a game they don’t want to play.