Dehumanizing and Marginalizing Kids with Special Needs

What constitutes dehumanizing and marginalizing kids with special needs?  The Huffington Post shared  a recent blog post, My Child with a Disability is not My Hero, the author of which believes that the tendency of parents of kids with special needs and disabilities to say their kids are “heroes” makes me deeply uncomfortable. 

The post  goes on to explain  what concerns the author about calling our kids heroes is that it’s just another form of dehumanization and marginalization. Our kids are KIDS, first and foremost. They’re people, human beings, whose value lies simply in the fact of their personhood, not in milestones or hurdles overcome. When we put them on pedestals and call them heroes, we make them something other than human beings. And we give them a standard that, at times, may be hard for them to live up to. They might not always feel like being heroic. Sometimes they might just want to be kids, people, frustrated and fed up and overtired and hungry and in a bad mood and all the other less-heroic stuff we feel from time to time.

a little boy with down syndrome

While I understand the thought here, and agree with most of it,  I simply can’t wrap my mind around the entire dehumanizing and marginalizing kids with special needs by referring to them as a Hero. (Yes, I did intentionally capitalize that word.)


Dehumanization.  Marginalization?

I’ve spent YEARS on this blog trying to show that Parker is first and foremost a kid.  More like any other kid than not.


A kid we just happen to call our Brave Hero.

ALL of my kids have had nicknames.  We call my 15 year old our Blue Eyed girl because out of six kids she is the only one with blue eyes.  Am I dehumanizing and marginalizing her too? Or is it only if your kid has special needs?   When Rigel was a baby I called him my ‘delicious monster,’ but that doesn’t mean he was an actual monster or that I ever planned on eating him either.  (Just covering my bases, folks.)

  • No.  Dehumanizing a child with special needs comes in the form of:


  •   the amount of abortions that are done each year because of a pre-natal diagnosis of Down syndrome.


  • not allowing  kids with special needs to be taught with typical kids when they have the ability to thrive in a typical classroom with proper supports.


  • refusing kids with special needs any social safety nets unless parent commit them to an institution.


  • Dehumanizing a child with special needs is inviting an entire neighborhood to a birthday party, EXCEPT for the kid with the extra chromosome.


  • Dehumanizing  a child with special needs is not allowing him to be baptized because he is already ‘perfect.’


  • Dehumanizing someone with special needs is raising the cost of living for everyone BUT those with disabilities.


  • Dehumanizing a child with special needs comes in the form of being asked to leave an eating establishment because your child is making a diner ‘uncomfortable’ by doing nothing more than existing.


  • Dehumanizing a child with special needs is having those who have been blessed with perfectly healthy bodies abuse and complain about the system of allowing those with disabilities not to have to wait in the long lines at Disneyland to the point of that consideration being rescinded and thousands of kids with disabilities no longer being able to attend Disneyland.


Little Heroes

In the comments section of the Huffington Post I learned that referring to a child with special needs as a Hero is nothing less than disability inspiration p*rn.   Disability Inspiration P*RN?  What the  does that actually mean.  Wait.  I don’t think I really want to know.


salt dough project

We call Parker our Brave Hero because of how hard he works to gain skills other kids acquire simply through the passing of days, NOT because he sports that extra chromosome.  This kid wakes up every day willing to rise to the occasion, even when the occasion requires pain and a hell of a lot of repetition and perseverance.  We also tell our other six kids they are pretty impressive when they master a skill or reach a goal.

Will we call him a Brave Hero when he’s a teenager?  Most likely not.  He’ll have grown out of it by then I suppose.

Calling Parker a Brave Hero doesn’t mean that he doesn’t have bad days, habits we are working to eradicate, or that this whole special needs thing doesn’t have huge parts that,  quite frankly, suck.

We don’t call Parker our Brave Hero simply because he was born with Ds, we call him a Brave Hero because that is what he is.  Brave.  AND our Hero.  He doesn’t have to be YOUR Hero.  But he IS ours. 

What do YOU think?  What constitutes dehumanizing and marginalizing kids with special needs?

PS:  I’d like to point out that the author of the post seen on the Huffington Post seems to be a truly amazing Mama and advocate.    This just happens to be one point on which we disagree.

About Tammy and Parker

Special Needs Blogger, and homeschooling Mom, heavily involved in advocacy for all kids with special needs in Utah.


  1. As another mother of a child with special needs (albeit, your story makes me pretty darn grateful!!!) I agree with you. The trials and tribulations that children (and adults) with special needs goes through is incredible.
    Have you ever actually looked up the definition of hero? I’m sure you KNOW what a hero means, but the websters defintion?
    A hero is defined as:
    a man of distinguished courage or ability,

    So replace “man” with your child, and I’d say he’s one hell of a hero! He has PLENTY of courage, and his abilities are phenomenal! What he’s accomplished in his short life is nothing short of amazing, and he should be hailed for it.
    What’s more, I think that the mom in the article (I ended up reading the article, and several of her posts on her site, btw) is wrong about her own child with Spina Bifida. Her daughter is a hero too. She has tremendous courage and she’s gained PLENTY of ability (did you see the video of her Claire walking for the first time? totally cute!!!!)

    I applaud you for what you have gone thorough (17 surgeries?) but more, I applaud Parker for enduring with a smile. The photos tell his entire story. You can tell that he doesn’t know a different life (imagine someone who goes blind at 17) so it’s nothing other than normal for him, but for us, someone who hasn’t gone through it, it’s amazing. You are amazing, but Parker, even more so!

    As far as medicaid… it sucks. Period. All the states are screwed, but some are worse. We here in WA got great news this Jan, that they’re re-covering a lot of things they had to take out of the budget, including adult dental. But here, children with disabilities, while a priority, still suffer. There are quite a few (read: a few thousand I think) that are ‘approved’ for developmental disability assistance and supports, but there is no funds for it. It’s heartbreaking, but hopefully, eventually, things will get better.

    I haven’t had time to read many more of your posts (must get my SN child to sleep now!) but I will be back. And as a blogger, I’d like to share you to my readers… maybe we can talk sometime. I have a few questions. (although, maybe they’ll be answered by your posts! lol


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