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Special Needs vs Disabilities: What Is The Difference?

by on 07/07/2023 4439

The terms "special needs" and "disability" are frequently used interchangeably by those who believe they imply the same thing. However, that really isn’t the case. The two terms are actually different from one another.

Children with special needs don't always have disabilities, and vice versa is also true. It’s true that these two concepts are very similar to one another, so it’s understandable that most parents are confused by the language used by schools and support organisations.

If you’re one of those wondering what the difference is between disability and special needs, let's take a closer look at the differences between the terms special needs and disabilities.

 

What Does The Term 'Child With Special Needs' Mean?

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Children with emotional, behavioural, or learning challenges are considered to have special needs. To put it another way, a child with special needs requires assistance or things other kids don't need, like special attention.

It is crucial to remember that until you work closely with a child, it can be difficult to tell if they have special needs. For example, a child with autism may have specific requirements, but you won't be aware until you engage with the kid.

The only difference between children with special needs and regular children is that they require extra help when doing certain activities. Education disability is the most common aspect of special needs. To be able to accomplish specific duties, the child requires special attention and help.

In comparison to the term "disabled," "special needs" has a gentler tone and is not as stigmatised. It doesn't sound like the kid is in a wheelchair or is disabled. A child with special needs can have a regular, wholesome, and happy life like other children and realise their full potential with the proper supervision and education.

Examples of a child with special needs

  • Social, behavioural and emotional difficulties
  • Multiple and profound learning difficulties
  • Moderate learning problems
  • Speech, communication and language needs
  • Autism spectrum disorders
  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and specific learning disabilities
  • Multi-sensory impairment

 

What Does The Term 'Child With A Disability' Mean?

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Now that you are aware of what a child with special needs encompasses, let's focus on a child with a disability. A child with a disability is one who has a mental or physical handicap that has a significant or long-term impact on their lives.

Children who have disabilities require assistance with almost everything they do. As a result of their extensive requirements, they need close attention and support. It is crucial to keep in mind that a child with a disability is easy to recognise because they are usually injured, crippled, or unable to perform daily tasks.

Additionally, children with disabilities cannot evolve or improve their circumstances, in contrast to children with special needs who can do so through time and effort. For those with disabilities, they have to cope with it for the rest of their lives.

Parents of children with disabilities must acknowledge that they cannot change their children's circumstances and provide them with the affection, devotion, and focus they require.

Examples of a child with disabilities

  • Physical disability
  • Communication disorder of severe nature
  • Developmental delay at pre-school
  • Long-term learning difficulty
  • Sensory impairments like visual, deafness and blindness
  • Autism Spectrum disorder
  • Chronic illness or multiple health problems

 

The Main Differences Between Both Terms

While special needs are more focused on learning impairments, disability is more focused on mental and physical disabilities. Children with disabilities are simple to spot since they are typically immobile or incapacitated, while children with special needs are more difficult to identify unless you get to know them.

Furthermore, if additional care and help are provided to children with special needs, they usually develop over time. The state of a child with a disability, however, cannot be changed very much. Parents and additional caretakers can offer them as much compassion, attention and assistance as they require.

But "disability" doesn't have to be such a frightful negative term. After all, it is we who give words their power. The concept of "disability" need not be derogatory. There is no reason to feel ashamed or embarrassed about it. Instead, it has the capacity to give someone the ability to perceive and feel the world entirely from another perspective.

 

Being Inclusive Involves Understanding The Two Terms

We hope this clears up any confusion you may have had regarding the distinction between special needs and disability. The fact remains, though, that both children with disabilities and children with special needs need specific support, affection, and care from their carers.

Make sure to take the appropriate steps as soon as you realise your child has a disability or special needs. The sooner your child receives assistance, the more content they will be.


Looking for a highly recommended school for special needs to consider in Malaysia? Visit our website now!

In Malaysia, there are many reputable schools and therapy centres for special needs, but it's important to pick one that meets both your needs and those of your child. Kiddy123 is Malaysia’s No.1 Early Childhood Directory, where we help parents to find preschools, enrichment programs, childcare, infant care and more! Contact us today or call us at +603-7972 1633.