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You all know how much I loathe the way people use the term “special needs” interchangeably with “disability”(my post about that is here ).

The term was originally an educational one, designed for kids with extremely unique learning needs. Plenty of people who have real educational “special needs” do not have a disability and plenty of people with disabilities do not have special needs within the classroom.

No one brings this home more for me than Micah and Moxie

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Moxie has Down syndrome. She’s the one that people are talking about when they use “special needs” interchangeably with “disability”. But she has few needs that are “special”. She simply learns in a highly visual, experiential way. She needs things to be practical and applicable.

And Moxie has a lot going for her. She’s very cute. She is charming. She has a way with people – when she wants people to pay attention to her, say “hi” or acknowledge her presence, she knows how to get it in a friendly and positive way.

Moxie makes people like her.

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It’s like she grabs the world by the collar and brings it down to her eye-level and smiles with her shy dimple spouting and says, ‘love me!” And it does.

It does.

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Micah, on the other hand, taught himself to read by the time he was 4. At 6, he has the vocabulary of many educated adults. He’s cute. He can be charming too, but he often struggles hard when trying to connect with new people.

It’s not Asperger’s or Autism – it’s just a type of awkwardness that I actually remember well from my own childhood (only I was never as smart as Micah is).

But it’s hard and it’s deep and it’s very difficult for him.

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He’s an intense kid, highly social. He loves other kids, always has, and yet can’t seem to say or do the right thing to win over the kids’ whose friendship he desires. He’s too rough on the playground or too bossy. It seems like it’s always “too” something. I don’t understand it – he’s not like that at home.

And academically, what do you do with a 6 year old with a junior-high school reading level? Who has a math level of a more typical first grader, who dreams about things like bio-neural engineering and adores Nova specials?

Let’s talk special needs. He’s got special needs.

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All kids have special needs, make no mistake about that, but academically speaking, some kids do need more tweaked in their learning environment than others do. Micah’s needs are unquestionably special to me in that they require more tailoring than most kids.

Micah’s that kid. He does not have a disability but he has special needs.

And Moxie has a disability but does not have needs that are terribly different from other kids



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  1. Indeed. You said it. I’m with you.

  2. This was well written and you have made some wonderful points. My son has chronic illness, autism and physical disabilities so I naturally use both interchangeably…Thank you for sharing such an enlightening post!

    1. oh wow – he’s a rare bird!… thanks for commenting

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