15 Things I’d Like Teachers to Understand About People With Special Needs


I wrote this blog after being inspired by a piece I saw on The Mighty titled “35 Secrets of Being a Special Needs Parent.” I know a lot of individuals — especially educators — who want to know what’s going on in the mind of someone with special needs. Growing up with autism, I went from getting kicked out of two preschools to transitioning to three different public schools and then having to fight our school system to get me out of district placement for middle school and high school.

As someone who was once nonverbal, I wanted to share 15 things I wish all teachers understood about people with special needs. Of course, these are based on my own experiences.

1. We’re always a person first before you even discuss our disability.

2. We’re not defined by labels. It’s what we do and who we are that defines us.

3. Although we have challenges, we also have things we love and are good at.

4. If you’ve met one individual with special needs, you’ve met one individual with special needs. We’re all unique. Teach the way we learn. 

5. When we struggle, the worst thing you can do is feel sorry and look down on us. Help us find the solution when things get tough.

6. We’ll take advice, but because our perspectives are often vastly different, we may have to think it over before agreeing with it.

7. Some days may be drastically different than others. Accept the fact that sometimes there won’t be a blueprint of what happens on a day-by-day basis. Just go with the flow and try the best you can.

8. We’d like people to be accepting of others.

young children in a classroom

9. If we seem shy at first, don’t take that as us not wanting to be included; we may just need more time than others to feel comfortable.

10. We all want to be loved in some way. We all have things and people we want to show compassion for in our lives.

11. Accept that you may never know the struggles going on inside us. Then, accept that we all have inner struggles in our lives, regardless of special needs. Show empathy and compassion always.

12. Even though we may have a disability, we still revolve around our strengths and interests. Always remember that.

13. Although we may not be able to express and/or communicate our feelings at times toward our loved ones, that doesn’t mean we don’t want you around. On the contrary, when times like that happen we may need you more than ever. Just remember we love you even when it’s not said on the surface.

14. We hate to be stereotyped as a “one-size-fits-all” disability. Also, we hate when you think the only people we can be around are those with similar disabilities. Give us opportunities to stretch and figure out who and what works best for us.

15. Finally, no matter what, we all serve a purpose. Play to our strengths while always helping us with our weaknesses along the way. 

Today, 1 in 5 Americans have a disability. Be educated. Be aware. And please be understanding. As a society, we’ll be much better for it.

This blog originally appeared on KerryMagro.com.

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