Growing up, I had an invisible disability called Hypotonia, also known as low tone. This disability caused the muscles in my body to be weak. With that being said, I became a special education student when I started in the public school system. My parents being wonderful advocates for me really helped me feel comfortable with who I was going into school with other children. However, I cannot say the same about other adults and teachers. I have encountered many teachers who do not understand the life that a special education student lives day-to-day.
Unfortunately, as hard as some teachers say that they want their special education students to feel included, it can come off very misleading and not genuine. Parents drop their children off to school feeling positive that the adults around them are going to make them feel welcomed and inspired. However, that doesn't always happen. When you are a teacher, you are supposed to care for and accept every student that comes through your door every day. It's not enough to just teach your lesson plans and send home homework. You should want to build relationships with your students and understand who they are at heart.
Not every student will learn the same or socially interact the same. You cannot learn who they are if you do not build relationships with them. I can give an example of a time where one of my high school teachers didn't recommend me for honors social studies because he saw that I had an IEP (Individualized Education Plan) and thought that I couldn't handle that. However, that teacher not only judged me for that reason. He also didn't take the time to know me enough to know that I was an honors student and took my school work very seriously. Solely basing a student off of a document is beyond judging a book by its cover! Teachers, I want you to ask yourself this: when you look at a student, are you seeing them for who they are or just for their disability?
Statistics say that over the last three school years, for students from ages 3-21 who received special education services under the IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act), some of 33 percent had specific learning disabilities, 19 percent of students have speech or language impairments, and 15 percent had other health impairments. With those statistics being said, I want to help spread the awareness that it is likely that at some point in your career as an educator, you will have a student in your class that has a learning disability or a health impairment. It is very important as an educator to educate yourself on things that you may not be aware of! It is OK to not know how to manage certain situations, it is OK to not know why certain children function the way they do. It is NEVER OK to assume that a student cannot achieve or exceed their highest potential due to a learning disability, learning disability, or other health impairment. It's always important to stay in perspective and educate ourselves when we do not understand the full extent of a situation as educators.
This school year I want all educators to try to create relationships with students and try to understand who they are at heart. Sometimes you learn a lot from your students just as much as they're learning from you, day-to-day.