The term special needs was popularized in the U.S. during the early 20th century during a push for special needs education to serve people with all kinds of disabilities. The word “special” in relationship to those with disabilities is now widely considered offensive because it euphemistically stigmatizes that which is different.
Avoid using these terms when describing a person with a disability or the programs designed to serve them, with the exception of government references or formal names of organizations and programs. It is more accurate to cite the specific disability or disabilities in question. The term functional needs is preferred when a term is required. For example, addressing the functional needs of people with disabilities could be used when referring to a facility or program.« Back to Glossary Index