Ellen Stumbo started a conversation on her Facebook page surrounding the article #SayTheWord, Not “Special Needs“. It was interesting reading other people’s perspectives but I realized something: My perspective comes from having a personal relationship with words like:
Disabled, Special Needs, Handicap, Stupid, Slow Learner
All these words that have at one point been used to describe me.
There was that time in Grade 10 a fellow classmate called stupid after finding out I had a learning disability, (even though we had been in the same class since grade 8.) In a five-minute span I didn’t change as a person, just that person’s opinion did.
I remember a time in grade 4 when a fellow classmate bullied me so bad because “I talked differently” that I stopped talking. It wasn’t because I was disabled, it was because of someone’s else’s ignorance.
People labeled me as a slow learner with a disability. My parents were told that I’d never graduate high school academically and go onto college. I did both and have a diploma in Early Childhood Development to prove it!
To me personally, I don’t like the words disability or special needs. They bring up painful memories and often were used to describe me as a person.
Neither of these words are who I am as person.
It took me a long time to understand that who I am as a person is not defined by the labels put upon me. During my teen years I really struggled with this. Believing these labels also held me back from fully do God’s work.
A few years ago I started to see myself as some one who is fearfully and wonderfully made by God. (Psalm 139:13-14) He didn’t make me disabled, he made me wonderful. (The Bible says so) It’s the world who has rose-colored glasses on.
Yes, I use the label words to get what I need for funding BUT they aren’t the words I like to use.
If I do need to label my life I use the word “atypical”. Why? Simple, because I live an “atypical” life. Nothing in my life has been “typical”, even from childhood.
If you really think about it not one person has a “typical” lifestyle. It is an illusion. Each person has their own personal learning style, physical limitations, and struggles.
Some are just easier to see than others.
To me, my daughter doesn’t have a disability. She is my smiley, Frozen obsessed, six-year-old who lights up the room. Yes, her walk in life looks different from other kids but she is perfect. Lilly is perfect because she was given to me to love.
It’s the rest of the world who has trouble seeing the real her.
Labels like Disabilities, and Special Needs are words that bring back painful memories for me. I do not like to be defined by them and that is why I use the word “#Atypical”.