Getting to know and love the special education culture.
Growing up, we are taught about different cultures through school, the media, or society in general. We are taught how to appropriately treat, greet, act around and respect the different cultures we encounter. At the end of the day, you treat them just like any other person. But how often are we taught about the Special Education culture? It isn’t very often you see a person with mental or physical disabilities around the media unless they are being made fun of, or a spectacle on social media. You never open a textbook in class and learn about the culture while growing up, that’s for sure. The culture is drastically unknown, but that doesn’t stop the culture from using their voice.
People with disabilities may have to take their time with anything from making yes or no decisions, putting shoes on, talking, eating or other things we take for granted. One thing they never struggle with is smiling. Just because they have to learn things differently than you have to, doesn’t mean they aren’t just like us. At CH high school, we have a special education classroom run by Miss S. MB, from Miss S class is 16 years old and a junior. When he finishes high school he wants to go into robotics or coding on computers-a very popular goal throughout CH high school. AP, who is also a student in Miss S class loves making friends, and hanging out with all of her friends; she wants to be friends with everyone. These two students are just like us.
Because the special education culture is slightly different from other cultures, it can be intimidating approaching someone from the culture. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t. And that doesn’t mean you should not treat them with respect. They may be different, but they are people too. “My disabilities may limit my choices or force me to find creative ways to participate, but they do not define me” - Chantelle McLaren. Chantelle Mclaren is a person who has a condition called ‘CHARGE Syndrome” CHARGE syndrome is a rather rare condition. There are hundreds of conditions that we have never heard of in the Special Education culture.
“People shouldn’t assume that they can’t talk to him because of how he looks. They need to make an effort to engage and acknowledge them”- Anne Gallegos. Anne Gallegos is a mom of a 15 year old boy who has multiple disabilities and enjoys baseball, music, and mint ice cream. He is also very fun to talk to. When you first see him, you may not see that. One of the worst things you can do for people with special needs and their family is assume things. You wouldn’t assume things like that to someone of cultures you know of, so why start with them?
MV, who is a senior in Miss S class wishes that people would treat not just her, but everyone like her with respect. Treating this culture with respect is not hard at all. Other classmates in that class, AN, PT, J and MQ, all would love getting high fives, hellos, and smiles, in the hallways. But overall, these individuals love being smiled at, not stared at. If you really want or need to know how to accommodate someone, just ask! Saying “What condition do you/they have?” instead of “What is wrong with you/them?” is much more appropriate. And of course, help us put an end to the R word. The word retarded was an older medical term people used for people with mental disabilities, but in this modern day, we don’t use that word. So please stop using it. At the end of the day, they are all people who are just like you, and they all want to be included and treated with respect!
*disclaimer, names have been replaced with initials for privacy reasons*