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7 Things I Wish Students Understood About Their Peers in Special Education

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With summer coming to an end and department stores filling up with back-to-school supplies, I can’t help but feel a little bit of “Fall Fever.” Working in special education, each new school year is a complete mystery. However, there are a few things that never seem to change — even though I wish they would.

One such thing is the relationship between the general education students and the special education students. Don’t get me wrong, some students are very helpful and accepting, but for each one of those golden students, there are several who view the special needs population negatively. To be completely honest, though, there was a time when I might have thought the same thing — which is why I sometimes wish I could get on the school intercom and share everything I have learned about special education students.

1.  They work just as hard as you do, if not harder. Sure, their assignments may look simpler than yours do, but don’t underestimate the amount of work our students put into their assignments. We push them to do their best — their best is just different than yours.

2. You would find plenty of things in common with them if you talked to them. Some of our students like sports, some like art, some like music, and some like to read. They are diverse, just like any other group of kids.

3.  Baby talk is degrading. They go to your school, which means they are close to your age. Talk to them like equals — they notice when they are being treated differently, and most of them don’t like it.

4. They don’t eat lunch in our classroom because they need to be kept separate from you. They eat lunch in our classroom because you haven’t invited them to eat with you.

5. Special Education is not in any way synonymous with “dumb.”  We have students who are intelligent in many ways. Some can solve a Rubik’s cube in a matter of seconds. Others can remember
everything they have ever seen or heard. Some are computer geniuses, some can solve complex equations, and some have incredible music skills. Special does not mean less, it just means different — but not quite as different as you might think.

6. They want to be treated as your equals because they are your equals.

7. You can learn a lot from them. Their ability to see the world in a different way will help you realize things you would never have noticed otherwise.

If you were truly to understand these things, there would be no more “you” and “them.” After all, you are all students, and you are all people.

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