Special Needs? – are we sure?







When I began writing about life with Bipolar, I made a pact with myself not to stray off message, or be tempted into territory where my experience/expertise gave me limited credibility. That opening prompts the word but ……… and you’d be right.
And maybe I’m not straying that much since the term Special Needs is attached ‘loosely’ to those with mental issues, especially the young.  Loosely is correct!
So why is it that the UK has five times as many ‘Special Needs’ pupils as the rest of the EU. I have no stats for the US or elsewhere, so they may match the UK  - but I doubt it. I mean, wait for it, nearly 2million children (a fifth) are diagnosed as SEN !
To say it begs a question is to put it mildly. It begs several:-


·         Either something genetic is happening


·         Schools are lazy and it’s easier to say ‘Special Needs’ than to admit teacher failings.


·         Or worse, it’s about distorting the system where government watchdog incentives encourage over classification


·         Are parents no longer willing to accept that young Johnny is perhaps lazy, or a true late developer, or simply disruptive, or horror of horrors – he’s just thick. A pejorative term and it maybe not helpful, but put that down to my Northern directness and personal frustration.
For me we can safely discount something genetic – after all we are a mix of Angles, Saxons, Celts and Vikings.
I reckon it’s about the other three coalescing to create this nonsense.
For too long, the chattering classes have ruined our schools by eliminating competition in sport (the we’re all winners here syndrome), and learning has been reduced to similar measures. A child that’s a spoilt brat, and who is disruptive, and bone idle in the classroom, is likely to have his parent’s declare he is dyslexic, rather than accept they have made a mess of his upbringing. 
Similarly, the inability of teachers to apply any type of discipline (not their fault), has lead to reducing standards ( sorry but I simply don’t buy into the standards have never been higher), and no doubt having more children diagnosed as SEN helps the ‘scores’ at the end of the day.
Why is this important? Well there’s the rub – it’s like everyone is Bipolar these days. THEY ARE NOT – at least most are not. It dilutes the currency of the condition, and by definition alters people’s perceptions of its seriousness. Ditto with Special Needs!
Without being too prescriptive, or too exhaustive, I thought Special Needs were about autism spectrum, dyslexia, deafness, blindness, other physical impairments, serious mental issues etc. For those of you who still feel I’m over-exaggerating, believe this – one school measured was including children of servicemen serving in Afghanistan in their SEN numbers!
This ridiculous state of affairs means that the resources that should be focussed on the children who are really handicapped in some way, are now spread evermore thinly to accommodate some kids for which a kick up the arse ( metaphorical of course – whereas in my day you got the full meaning) would be a more apposite response.
I know how angry and frustrated I get when I hear someone trot out ‘oooh I think I may be Bipolar too’. I can only imagine how galling it must be to have say, an autistic child, and find another parent empathising saying ‘young Johnny has special needs too’ when everyone else can see he just a lazy little stinker!
Thank God I’m 60!
Don’t think I could cope with another 40 years of this type of depressing trend.



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One Response to “Special Needs? – are we sure?”

  1. On February 22, 2017 at 1:43 pm carol smith responded with... #

    When I became a public school teacher in California in 1993, our poor school site had the County program for severely disabled and emotionally disabled children. They were all confined to our shabby campus while the other schools didn’t have “those Problems.” But, yes, Kit, now every single regular education classroom is full of students with special needs. I am told that some have autism and after spending six months with one class, I decided that the student diagnosed with autism had just plain bad behavior BUT he had convinced his adult over 6 foot tall big teacher man that he was a special needs kid because he got to throw temper tantrums, act out and scare other students and basically, control the entire classroom. Now, on this site, I read about the “bipolar spectrum for children.” When was that label added to the mix? I have manic depression and have written a book about it and what it was like and how I behaved and I have never called my manic depression Bipolar I or Bipolar II because who the hell knows the difference? I do. I have Bipolar I, which is the worst because we have psychotic episodes and that’s the difference between I and II. My psychosis says that I can fly. It says nothing about throwing knives at people, harming people, and it didn’t manifest until my early 20s which is consistent with ALL the research on manic depression or Bipolar this and that. I do not believe in a spectrum for bipolar illness for children but if YOU put it out there, parents, administrators and everybody who is anybody will run with this new diagnosis of bipolar illness in children and it will appear before your very eyes because you have told parents of oppositional children that they now have bipolar spectrum disorder. . No, I don’t believe kids are manic like me and I have never ever seen one of my primary school students exhibit manic depressive traits ever. But when I went up to teach high school English, I DID see some students exhibit manic depressive traits but they were in their late teens or early 20s, as research told us when to expect this wonderful illness should we have inherited it because it is an inherited mental illness. Please stop flooding public education with one more label that means nothing except the child is acting out. When I had my first break at 21, I was docile. When I had my second break at 52, I was scared and docile. I was never a threat to anyone except myself because I think I can fly when I am manic. If I try, I will kill myself. We already are dealing with the autism spectrum that we all fit it to somewhere. One more reason to allow students to misbehave because of this new “bipolar spectrum for children” is, well, crazy. I’m not THAT crazy and no, I don’t believe in bipolar spectrum for children” unless you want to give educators one more “special needs” child that doesn’t deserve to be called special needs. At this point in public education, every student is a special needs student because educators have no power at all. The power is n the hands of six year old’s and Administrators are scared to death of them because they have been allowed to take control of entire schools. Their parents know all the “rules” and education is not only a challenge but it’s a damn fight. Oh, how did I manage all these years with my manic depression while being an educator? I just had to do what I had to do. Oh, and I was on good meds. My book is entitled “Having Manic Depression” by Hannah N. Walsh. You might find it interesting. Or at least it will clear up the distinction between Bipolar I and Bipolar II.

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