In the United States, special needs is a term used in clinical diagnostic and functional development to describe individuals who require assistance for disabilities that may be medical, mental, or psychological. For instance, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders and the International Classification of Diseases 9th edition both give guidelines for clinical diagnosis.
Types of special needs vary in severity. People with autism, Down syndrome, dyslexia, blindness, ADHD, or cystic fibrosis, for example, may be considered to have special needs. However, special needs can also include cleft lips and/or palates, port-wine stains, or missing limbs
In the United Kingdom, special needs often refers to special needs within an educational context. This is also referred to as special educational needs (SEN). In the United States, 18.5 percent of all children under the age of 18 (over 13.5 million children) had special health care needs as of 2005