Friday, September 22, 2017

"Special Needs" or Human Needs?

God created humankind in His own image, in the image of God He created them, male and female He created them. (Genesis 1:27, NET)

There are so many misunderstandings, false perceptions, and judgments concerning the sphere of special needs; physical, intellectual, and invisible disabilities.

Ever since Bethany was born God has used her humanity to teach us some wondrous truths: 

Everyone is fearfully and wonderfully made.
We are not so much different as alike.
Not one of us are whole, perfect, or invincible.
ALL of us need a Savior.

While blogging, I’ve spent a lot of energy and words trying to convince people that “they” are just like our daughter, Bethany (who has Down Syndrome) because we ALL have special needs. But what if I have it backwards???? What if everyone isn’t like Bethany, what if Bethany is like everyone else? Instead of labeling "needs" as special, maybe we should label them as human needs! 

“Special” should be word that sets you apart in a positive way. When Bethany was born, I can’t count how many times people would come up and say, “God gave you a such special child because He knew you were such special parents.” I inwardly shuddered and revolted against that word, "special." 

ALL our children are special.

Down syndrome didn't make her more special. She is special because she's our child, created in God's image, with less-than-perfect DNA (just like all of us). Linking the word "special" to Down Syndrome instead of her personhood seemed like a slap in the face considering the potential future we might be facing.

Is it “special” to have potential heart problems, learning challenges, inclusion battles, possible speech impediments, hearing difficulties, and an increased chance of Alzheimer's? 

Is it "special" to have to fight for an inclusive education, opportunities for jobs, a fair wage, friends, understanding and respect as a person?

Which brings me full circle and prompts this question:

Are these “special needs” or basic human needs?

Everyone has special needs. Everyone is challenged. Everyone is disabled. Everyone is human (despite that Peter Sanger wants to label the disabled as "sub"human!)

No one has special needs, just human needs. 

Instead of labeling our challenges as special, maybe we should just label them as “human.”
Our human needs are as varied as there are stars in the heaven. Individual and distinct. The Good News is there is One who loves and accepts us in all our brokenness but who loves us too much to leave us there. Our Father in Heaven is in the redemption and restoration business. He’s committed to meeting each and every one of our human needs through Jesus Christ.  

Our human needs will be one day be fully met and satisfied in Jesus Christ. In His presence we will know fullness of joy and perfect shalom — mind, body, and spirit. Now that, THAT will be really special!

Prayer: Father God, Help us have eyes to see the needs and challenges each and every person faces. Help us respect and give dignity to each person, compassion and truth. And when we see needs that are greater than our own, help us understand and offer compassion and help.


  1. Wouldn't it be great if "human" could be added to every conversation about the disabled and infirm?

  2. Wonderful post Cindy. I used to think how fortunate Bethany was to have you and Jeff as parents, gut I have changed my thoughts. I now realize how fortunate you and Jeff are to have Bethany as your child. I pray Bethany can see Jesus in you and Jeff as I clear as I do. Love and miss your family.