photo of Katherine Wolf and Penny dancing at outside dance party
Photo by by Ashley Monogue

“They aren’t special needs. They are human needs.”

“They aren’t special needs. They are human needs.”

My friend Jay Wolf gave this beautifully concise explanation of why the term “special needs” is problematic. To say that his wife Katherine, who uses a walker and a wheelchair, has “special needs” isn’t accurate. Nor is it accurate to call it “special needs” when we create an Individualized Education Plan with and for our daughter Penny.

Katherine has the same human needs as everyone else. She needs mobility. She needs access to bathrooms and public spaces and transportation. 

Penny has the same human needs too. She needs food. She needs shelter. She needs meaningful relationships. She needs to be respected and loved.

We are all invited into relationships of mutuality in which we give from what we have and receive what we need from the loving support and kindness of the people around us. We are all invited to adjust our spaces and expectations and busy schedules in order to accommodate one another. We are invited to slow down and open up to our own needs. 

We are invited to recognize that the needs of the people around us are no more or less special than our own. We are invited to be human together. 

Photos by Ashley Monogue

More with Amy Julia:

Down Syndrome’s “Exclusive Club”
Hope Heals and Hope Heals Camp
Disability Is Central to James McBride’s Latest Novel. Critics Are Missing That Point.

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