Special Education is BS

I know I will ruffle a few feathers with the title on this, but I am serious. The system of Special Education is BS in my very humble opinion. My perspective is based upon my own experiences as a teacher and as a father whose son is in a fantastic early childhood program. I say this for three reasons:

  • Special Education labels and “indentifies” kids. These labels are often the defining characteristic of a child. If a kid is given a label of ADHD, which is currently a crowd favorite, they are looked at a certain way. It is very easy to say “that kid can’t focus on the lesson because of their ADHD”. Instead we should be saying, “how can I make this lesson more engaging or interactive to get that kid plugged in”? I don’t want to have a kid’s life determined by the label they are given. I recognize the numerous medical diagnoses that are places upon children. Those diagnoses are real and as a teacher I like to know what a child is working with. This informs my decisions and how I support and teach them. I am going to support the needs of every student regardless of what paperwork has been filed on their behalf.

  • Special Education is a way to provide supports and services for students with identified disabilities. Naturally you would think this is a good thing but I disagree. If we are doing our jobs as educators we should be providing support for all students in their areas of need. We should not need to convene a meeting and fill out paperwork to determine how to help a kid. In addition, we should not be confined to the “approved” supports listed on this paper work. If a kid needs help, we help them in any way we can. Isn’t that what we should be doing anyway? 

  • Special Education is often used as a crutch for students, parents, and teacher alike. Students with indentified disabilities are often given watered down assignments, less work load, and lower expectations. Human beings in general often rise to the level of expectations put upon them. Students can figure out pretty quick when they are not expected to “do” as much as other kids. This sort of enabling has damaging long terms effects that I see almost daily in my classroom. Parents can also fall victim to this as they rely on the “label” to justify anything and everything their child is doing. Teachers are not innocent in this as well. It is easy to give up on a kid when you think they are not capable due to their label.

For the record, I am not against helping kids and providing every single support available to a school. Quite the contrary, I will do anything to help a child succeed in my classroom and in life. However, don’t tell me I have to give extra help to a kid because his label and paperwork says so. I am going to give that kid some extra help because it is the right thing to do and because they need it. I understand the legal and financial implications of a special education. I also understand that my son would not have been given the opportunity to be in the fabulous early learning program he is in with being “labeled”. I find it sad that helping a child is something mandated rather than something we do because it is what we are supposed to be doing.

Special Education is not going away and honestly it probably shouldn’t. I just hope as educators we are helping all learners succeed in our classrooms and in life. I also hope that we don’t define our students by their label and hold all our students to high yet appropriate expectations.

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