I was and am in special education…these words tend to ring fear into parents and children’s minds alike. Special educations includes but is not limited to anything that is not the general curriculum for a school. I have worked with special needs for close to 7 years already and one thing that I have learned in that time is that we are all Special Needs! We all have strengths and weaknesses and things that are broken inside of each of us, sometimes they interfere with school and sometimes they don’t. If they do interfere we call that special ed but if they don’t we call that lucky.
What I really can’t stand is how casual we choose our words as a society, in so many respects we have come a long ways as a culture however I still hear people use words outside of their intended meaning. It really is more than a pet peeve its injustice to hear someone tell another person that they are “retarded” or acting like a “retard” because they are not telling their friend they are acting like a mentally impaired person, they are really trying to tell their friend they are being dumb or acting stupid. BUT MENTALLY IMPAIRED PEOPLE DON’T ACT STUPID AND AREN’T DUMB AT ALL!!! So why do we let that word stand in for that? It is not only incorrect but a travesty because we are creating a culture that says that there is no need for special needs people in our society.
I am passionate about this because I have met thousands of special needs people in my life and not only are they active members of our society but they are actually crucial because they teach others how to love and how to be kind and how to be thankful. I have learned a lot more about myself looking into the eyes of a disabled child than I have ever learned looking at my friends. I had the opportunity a few years back to work for 10 weeks at a summer camp helping students with physical disabilities have the time of their lives at camp. It was the most humbling and breathtaking thing I have ever done. So many of my stories and things that make me smile start with, “So I was at camp right…” (you can ask my friends, I am sure it drives them crazy).
If we don’t start seeing those that society disregards as vital crucial members of our community we will miss out not only on life but on learning about ourselves. Those beautiful souls won’t be the ones to miss out because they have a deeper understanding of life that I won’t even begin to comprehend. One of my all time favorite quotes is “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn” by Alvin Toffler.
We have to unlearn and relearn how we think and support those with disabilities in our culture because we will find that they are more handicapable than we could ever be!!