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4 Reasons to Celebrate National Special Education Day

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National Special Education Day is December 2 of every year. It marks the anniversary of our nation’s first federal special education law, the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act, which President Gerald Ford signed on December 2, 1975.

National Special Education Day holds a special place in my heart because I was born with cerebral palsy, which caused me to be placed in special education when attending public school. Throughout my time in special education, I have come across some of the best teachers. They have truly positively impacted my life to this very day as a young adult. Thanks to their dedication to my needs, I am now attending college and am an author and advocate for the cerebral palsy community.

Here are four reasons why we need to celebrate National Special Education Day in honor of students, administration, and teachers who make special education classes possible for students with disabilities.

1. We need to end the misconceptions about disabilities.

People have many misconceptions about students with disabilities. Many people believe living with a disability prevents students from being able to achieve their academic goals. People have often stereotyped me based on my disability and automatically assumed I can’t do anything. However, once they get to know me, they see my strengths.

We also need to address the inappropriate labels students in these classes have. You don’t how many times my friends in mainstream classes would say, “Tylia, why are you in special education classes if you’re not ‘stupid?’”

2. We need to thank our teachers.

The teachers and staff who help students with different types of disabilities, ranging from spina bifida to autism and ADHD, are brave. They go through a lot on a day-to-day basis. They take the time to teach students like me so we can have a proper education.

3. We need to thank our fellow students.

The students who take special education classes are unique and amazing. Throughout my time in special education classes, I met some of my best friends, many of whom have multiple disabilities. One of my friends was from Haiti. I taught him how to read since he wasn’t able to read English due to his learning disabilities. We are close to this day. Students continue to shine a positive light in these classes by helping others and creating strong friendships.

4. We need to thank our advocates.

Advocates help and support parents through the journey of having a child in the special education program. It can be a difficult journey from both a student standpoint and a parent standpoint. From the IEP meetings to finding the right direction to go when it comes to your child’s education, disability life can be very confusing at times. So, kudos to all the advocates who have made a difference in our lives.

I would love to thank all special education teachers who serve our community and our schools every day. You all make our lives so much brighter and fuller, and I am truly thankful for the impact you have had on my life.

Getty image by Olesia Bilkai.

Originally published: December 12, 2018
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