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Is this for real?

I've been sitting on this one for a while, but I can sit on it no longer. A few weeks ago there was a news story essentially asking whether children with no friends should be classed as special needs.

I'm not entirely sure this was a serious story, it was probably just a reaction to something on a web forum. However, if someone was taking this seriously, it's worrying. There seem to be two problems here.

The first is confusing cause and effect. It's entirely possible that children who do have very genuine special needs will not have any friends. For example, a child on the autistic spectrum may find it difficult to make friends. In this case, you certainly will have a child without friends who is special needs. But the lack of friends is not causal in this requirement, it's just a symptom.

The second is the dilution of the special needs label. In a sense, all children are special needs. They are all individuals, and all have particular requirements for support. However, the term 'special needs' is used in education for a very specific section of the population, and it is crucial that the resources these children so depend on are not diluted by every silly fad that comes along. We'll be suggesting next that children with red hair should be classified special needs...

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