There are different issues involved in Special Needs Education.
First of all, lets look at the label: Special Needs Disabilities. Many of the parents of those children reject this label for good reason: it tells the kids that there is something intrinsically wrong with them. Then, there are the parents who believe that their child was wrongly diagnosed and work hard at “mainstreaming” the child. Finally, some parents feel that a different doctor, therapist or tutor might find the problem and “fix” the child. You know what: I agree with everyone of those parents because they are specialists in an area I just started to discover: their child.
How about realizing that those kids are not “broken”. They are looking at life from a different point of view. For example, if I look at my living-room from the patio door, all I see is a small kitchen, sofa and computer desk. While looking at the same living-room from the front door, I could only see the piano, table and a set of book shelves. Same general area with different views. I always believed in the ability of my students to teach me a different way of looking at life, in general, and learning, in particular. For example, Temple Grandin, who was diagnosed with autism in 1950, was meant to spend her days in an institution.
Instead, she got early help from sensory therapy, a very defined schedule, social interaction and speech therapy. Today, she is an example to all children who walk a different path. She was the one who showed me that there are people who think in pictures instead of the words most of us remember. Her example helped me find a different curriculum for my oldest daughter. Thank you, Dr. Grandin, for showing me the path!
Another issue faced by most children in Special Needs Education is over-stimulation. Everything from light, touch, texture, color and mouth-feel can and does interfere with those children’s ability to learn. Their bodies are under constant assault from the environment. As such, it is almost impossible to concentrate on the task at hand. Simple changes like the change from fluorescent light to incandescent light can make a huge difference in a child’s life. The noise level in a large group is too much for a small child of regular development, while a child who is fighting his environment is reduced to a ball of tears and fists by the end of the day.
These are also the children who can benefit from an elimination diet due the constant over-stimulation of the very environment they are meant to enjoy. Think of it as a glass too full at the beginning of the day. What happens when more stress is added to the same glass during the day?
Finally, the most important issue faced by children in Special Needs Education and their parents is the very breadth of the continuum: each and every child presents a new adventure to the teachers, aides and loved ones. A deaf child and a child with autism would require different services, environments and knowledge. Their adventures would be different. Adventures meant to take a life-time.
A lifetime of discovery of ones dreams and reason for being.