SPECIAL KIDS WITH SPECIAL NEEDS…DO WE LEAVE THEM OUT?
SPECIAL KIDS WITH SPECIAL NEEDS…DO WE LEAVE THEM OUT?
I saw this comment online recently and decided to talk with my daughter, who worked in special needs education for a time. Through her insight, it occurred to me that I should post this on my blog.
I can’t fairly evaluate or comment directly about the events that took place with these two children. I don’t have enough information. Special needs kids do not have a one-size-fits-all solution.
Let’s look at some possibilities with the first incident; the exclusion of an autistic child from participating in a school trip. How old was the child? Was he taking a special needs class, and being integrated into the mainstream school population? [More about this later.] Did they even have a special needs class at that school? Was there anyone at the school trained in supervising autistic children on outings? Was at least one of his parents able to go along? As explained to me, autistic children are particularly sensitive to lights and sounds. Something most of us take for granted could send an autistic child into a panic where he could lash out, or run, or simply withdraw inside himself. It could be the bleat of a goat at the zoo, or a loud bang from the assembly line at a manufacturing plant. Would there be flashing colored lights at exhibits? These questions need to be asked, answered and evaluated based on the level of his autism, his general aptitude, and past behavior. Remember that there is a safety factor here. The safety of the other students, and also his own safety could be in jeopardy.
Let’s look at student number two, a Down’s syndrome child; removed from a dance class when she wasn’t able to keep up with the other students. Some of the first set of questions still apply. What was her age? Was she being integrated into the mainstream, or was she a full-time student on the regular agenda? Down’s syndrome children are known to be some of the kindest, most loving kids you can ever meet. They often do well in a regular, age appropriate classroom setting. That doesn’t mean they’re up to all the challenges that other students their age can cope with. Some studies show that children with Down’s syndrome require more practice with motor movements, whether in dance, exercise, or sports, and may have a learning delay due to physical ability with the central nervous system. https://www.down-syndrome.org/information/motor/overview/ Were her needs such that other students were being held back in a way that could impact their learning and performance? Possibly she should be moved into a less advanced dance class, where she could learn at a slower pace.
There are a number of other children that fall into the category of special needs. Kids with Asperger’s ( a variation of autism), ADHD (attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder), ADD (Attention deficit disorder), vision impairment including dyslexia, hearing impairment, Tourette syndrome and multiple other conditions can fall into the category of special needs. Each of these children need to be placed where they can benefit most from the experience with the least disruption to the mainstream students’ learning processes. Many of these students recognize that they aren’t like the other students, but they still want and need friends and social activities. Go to this site to see famous celebrities who have battled dyslexia and other learning disorders. https://www.special-education-degree.net/25-famous-people-with-learning-disorders/
In larger communities, most public schools have classrooms with teachers and teaching assistants who are trained in working with special needs kids. As these kids develop, each at their own pace, most schools try to integrate them into standard classrooms, which works to the benefit of both the individual child and the other students in the school. Let me explain. When children are separated because of a condition, the other students consider them “different” and therefore not as sociably desirable. Meanwhile, the child from the special needs class begins to feel left out, unwanted, and so on. By moving the students with disabilities or learning problems into some of the standardized classrooms, they become “less weird” to the other children, and often assimilate quite well into the new structure. Of course, some children will adapt easier than others, but overall, it’s been proven that as abilities develop, integration benefits the child and stimulates learning. That said, sometimes events arise where special considerations must be made. Each case is going to be different, but the main thing is to maintain the safety of all children at all times. Sometimes a child can only be moved into one or two classes. For instance, some children with autism can actually do advanced math, while still not ready to try out social skills in the gymnasium. Conversely, a child suffering with ADHD might well benefit from a good workout in the gym.
Unfortunately, all schools do not have the facilities to separate the students, especially in smaller communities. Surprisingly, Down’s syndrome children can often do quite well in generalized study. Many others can too, but some children end up being home-schooled or even sent to a school specific to their needs, such as a school for the deaf and blind. Often, these schools provide boarding during the school year, since the kids come from several towns.
So the important thing here is to realize that each child will have different abilities and needs. I’m not just talking about special needs kids. If you think back to your childhood days, you’ll probably remember a kid or two that got teased a lot because they were smart, and another who was teased for being “dumb.” Maybe one of them was you. This idea of integrating the special needs students into as much standardized education as they can handle can actually help solve some of the teasing from happening as the students learn that even kids you thought were less capable can indeed learn and be funny and interesting and smart in their own ways.
Next time you get a chance, take a look at your child’s school. Find out what classes are offered for special needs students. If there are none, ask why not. Talk to your kids and find out if they know any special needs kids, and ask how they interact together. Explain to your children how all people have problems… some are just more obvious than others.
Of course all kids want to be included in outings and fun activities. Many times that’s possible and encouraged. Just remember that there are other students, too. Everyone’s safety must come first. Without knowing the special circumstances of the individual child, forming an opinion and making a judgement call can cause more stress and more harm than good. And if “winning” is the only goal, then yes, these children are being left behind. But remember that in a competition, tryouts leave out everyone who isn’t qualified to be on the team. Possibly pointing this out to special needs children would help them understand the difference between competition and general play. Also, show film/video of special Olympic events, to encourage their efforts.
And finally, parents must rise to the challenge too, of teaching their own children – whether special needs or not – that getting to know people that are different than they are can be a wonderful and inspiring experience. If there are special needs kids in your child’s class, encourage them to include that person in on things like birthday parties, or games, or just joining them for lunch. — END