I had a discussion with someone about the terms ‘special needs’ and ‘additional needs’, which I hope to bring here.

The needs described by these terms typically involve additional educational help, such as the use of extra computer programs (Hasselbring & Glaser, 2000) and extra support from professionals (Lightfoot, Wright & Sloper, 1999). However, for at least some of these disabilities, some have argued that people who require these needs have not lost anything that has to be replaced, but instead function in ways that are different and only seem lacking in societies that naturally do not cater for them (Rutter, 1980; Sacks, 1989; Shakespeare, 2006). Meanwhile, the term ‘additional needs’ may discourage this mind-set as, with reference to the Oxford Dictionaries, saying that someone has ‘additional needs’ may suggest that they simply need more help than what has already been offered. Hence, implying that the people with these needs have deficits to address.

On the other hand, there have been reports from previous literature on the human tendency to reject those who are different from themselves (Phelan, Link & Dovidio, 2008; Abrams, Rutland, Cameron & Marques, 2003). In concordance, Akrami, Ekehammar, Claesson and Sonnander (2006) concluded that individuals with disabilities experience a level of negative attitude from everyone. What’s more, the Oxford Dictionaries described the meaning of ‘special‘ using the word “different”. Hence, the use of the term ‘special needs’ may encourage discrimination, while the use of ‘additional needs’ may lessen discrimination by not highlighting that these individuals function differently.

In conclusion, both terms could potentially promote discrimination towards the individuals who could do with these needs or directly insult them. What do you think?

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