Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Mentally Different

I am not "special needs". I am mentally different.

The term "special needs" is, to me, a bit absurd. Taken literally, you could say everyone has special needs. Everyone has some kind of problem. And then there are the negative connotations. Nobody wants to be "special needs", though using the literal definition, everyone is!

The third complaint I have with this word is that it's too generic. "Special needs" lumps the blind with the deaf, with the physically disabled, the mentally disabled, and what I think of as the mentally different. "Special needs" encompasses people in wheelchairs, people with brain injuries, Einstein, sociopaths, and basically anyone who doesn't fit into the definition of normal. It's one of those umbrella terms that simultaneously means almost everything, and therefore almost nothing.

There is only one definition for mentally different.*

The mentally different (according to me), are those on the autism spectrum. Note the lack of positive or negative connotation; we're not the mentally disturbed, or gifted, just different. Everyone has "special needs", and we are no exception. But we also have special abilities. Positive and negative cancel, and we're left with a neutral term; mentally different.**

I am not disabled. I am different.

*Technically, everyone is unique and therefore mentally different (in the literal sense) but don't be a literalist; it can get annoying.
**This term applies especially to those with Asperger's Syndrome or high-functioning autism.