Most of us have heard the term “Special Needs” but what about “Additional Needs”?
The term “Special Needs” can carry a negative connotation in some communities and typically refers to children with diagnostic issues. While this is important, a diagnosis simply describes a set of symptoms and doesn’t address the actual needs of the child. It is crucial that we work to understand the needs of the child, not just the diagnosis.
This is where the term “Additional Needs” comes into play. We want parents and caretakers to understand that the diagnosis isn’t the issue and the focus needs to be on helping the child get their needs met. It is also an important term for children who do not have “diagnostic issues” but still experience challenges and need extra care.
Why is changing the language around this topic important?
All of us have “additional needs” of some sort, so it is much more broad and inclusive. This allows children with or without a diagnosis to be seen as children who have additional needs that need to be cared for. This also allows us to shift the focus from just therapy or treatment to understanding a bigger picture. This means understanding that the child may need additional time, additional compassion, additional empathy or additional support. Perhaps using the term “additional” instead of “special” will help us progress our understanding of what is really going on and what is needed. A small change like using different language allows us to progress and see things differently. This way we can keep the focus on what really matters, which is helping the child to get their individual and unique needs met.