A New Definition of Special Needs [that includes you]

My Facebook post began with “Rachel, my 14-year-old daughter with special needs … “, and I cringed. Something about the term “special needs” bugs me, but most people know that it means she has issues that require more assistance and monitoring than normal. So in the interest of time and space, I chose to use it. 
Over the next couple days, I began to flesh out a different meaning for the phrase. 
My daughter does need extra assistance to do many things others take for granted. That’s a fact. However, the term fits her best not in what she can’t do well, but much more in her responsibilities.
Oh, she has special needs alright. She needs to 
  • teach me patience
  • show me how to slow down and notice the gifts God gives daily
  • demonstrate to me that relationships matter the most
  • show me how to love unconditionally
  • reveal to me how to be in the moment
  • unveil to me that worth is not measured by one’s ability to make money, but just in their being
  • show me how to lighten up and not take things so seriously
  • teach me how to push through my comfort zone
The Lord knew I would struggle with these lessons (among others). Rachel is one of the tools He has used through the years to grow me in all these areas. He has uniquely gifted her. 
What I initially saw as limits, classified as her “special needs,” are her strengths:  
Rachel is slow to walk and react. Because she doesn’t rush, she notices the incredible array of sights and sounds that surround us—making me aware of them as well.
Rachel doesn’t understand status and position.  That is precisely why she can teach me to love everyone, regardless of their “success” in life. 
Rachel doesn’t understand social etiquette. She hugs spontaneously and laughs unhindered, regardless of her setting. Because she isn’t anxious about “what people will think,” she is a great educator in the area of living in the moment.
We all have areas of special need. Have you ever thought your perceived weaknesses may be your strengths?

We all have areas of special need. Have you ever thought your perceived weaknesses may be your strengths? Click To Tweet

With the crystallization of this new, truer meaning,  I believe I may just redefine “special needs” for our benefit (sorry Mr. Webster).
special needs (Webster’s definition): the individual requirements of a person with a disadvantaged background or a mental, emotional, or physical disability or a high risk of developing one. 
special needs (Julie’s definition): the individual requirements of a person, bestowed on them by their Creator, Yahweh, that makes them particularly effective at teaching an important principle.
In that light, the term “special needs” takes on a far more positive note, now doesn’t it?
“Now we have this treasure in clay jars, so that this extraordinary power may be from God and not from us.” (2 Corinthians 4:7)
Reflections: Do you have a better definition for “special needs”? I’d love to hear it—share below in the comments. 
Linking with Ann Voskamp at A Holy Experience in 2013 for my Joy Dare list for Multitude Mondays (#1434–1454, read them all by clicking here):
  • Cross country skiing; Seeing turkey, deer & bald eagle at same time; Power of exercise & getting “out” to get out of a funk
  • Enjoying afternoon hours w/ ladies fm church; Lunch w/ my middle schooler; Wild games of indoor football w/ Joe & Rach
  • Great school conferences all around; Our old Yukon came through when the car broke down; Neighborhood car repairman
  • Rachel asked to hang w/ the girls & go to her 1st middleschool dance; Dave able to help his mom; Free expert tech advice
  • Watched Rachel have a fabulous time at the dance w/ her friends; Glittery eye shadow; Hubby doing house projects
  • Reconnected w/ a dear friend over lunch; Camera that takes decent photos in dim light; Cherished memories
  • Sweetheart dinner w/ hubby & friends; Rain, not ice, coming down; Surprise appreciation gift received from employer

Also linking with the following wonderful sites:



By His grace ≈


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Find hope in your real-life struggles. We'll chase it together! I am a wife; mom of 4 (including a young adult daughter with special needs); miscarriage mom of 5; author & follower of Jesus Christ. I write, edit, speak and enjoy everything outdoors.

3 comments on “A New Definition of Special Needs [that includes you]
  1. I have a 14 year old “special needs” daughter who needs to teach me a few lessons as well!

  2. love this Girl. Totally with ya.

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