Fair isn’t everybody getting the same thing. Fair is everybody getting what they need in order to succeed.
Q: What do I do if I suspect my child is different?
A: Parents are often the first to notice differences and disabilities in their children. Usually your first point of contact will be your doctor. This is important because early intervention can sometimes reduce the impact of the disability.
Q: What can a special educator do for my child?
A: By the time your child reaches school age, please do contact a special educator who is trained to teach students to overcome and cope with their disabilities. Early intervention is key to supporting your child and to forestall any adjustment issues in school. Special educators will advise you about the best placement for your child. They can advocate on your child’s behalf to ensure that s/he is placed in the least restrictive environment in school. The special educator is the best person to determine whether the disability is affecting the child’s education. S/he will then design an individualized education plan (IEP) to support the student’s learning. A medical professional can diagnose a disability, but is not ideally qualified to advise on educational matters. A special educator can do the necessary diagnostic assessments to determine specific areas of deficit.
Q: What does “least restrictive environment” mean?
A: Your child should be placed in the least restrictive environment possible in school. S/he should be integrated with other students to the maximum extent possible, whether it be academic classes, non-academic activities, or lunch and recess time. The least restrictive environment is one where the student is included in the school environment to the greatest extent possible.
Q: What are the benefits of inclusive education for students with special needs?
A: Students with special needs will have to live in regular society when they become adults. If they are educated in an artificial and isolated environment, they will have difficulties adapting to independent life as adults. They need to be educated in the same environment in which they will eventually live.
Q: What benefits do mainstream students receive by interacting with special needs students?
A: When typically developing children are educated on the same campus and in some of the same classrooms as students with disabilities, they learn to interact with each other in a natural and matter-of-fact manner. Fears and prejudices about disabilities are removed over time. As adults, they will be much more accepting and understanding of people with disabilities.
Q: How are teachers expected to teach to both mainstream and special needs students?
A: When teachers consciously adapt curriculum to accommodate students with special needs and other struggling students, they become aware of their needs and difficulties. This makes the teacher think creatively in order to rise to the challenge, and makes the teacher more professionally adept and skilled in the process. Teaching to students with special needs can often help teachers find new ways to make the material accessible to mainstream students as well.
Q: What are the advantages of special needs students being integrated in all schools?
A: People with disabilities can and do participate in society in various ways. It’s important for all citizens to contribute to society to the greatest extent possible. Our education system has to enable this for the differently abled. We have to nurture our own Stephen Hawkings, Helen Kellers and Temple Grandins. There should be one in every school, not three in the entire country. Towards that goal, let us come together.
Please feel free to reach out through our contact form if you have any questions we did not answer here, or if we can help your child in any way.